Though their golden UAAP campaign only had 17 games in it, the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles went through a rigorous pre-season campaign to prepare for it.
Arguably, the Blue Eagles had the toughest of preparations among all the collegiate teams in the country.
For starters, the Katipunan-based squad joined all three major pre-season tournaments — the SMART City Hoops Summer Classic, the SMART Breakdown Basketball Invitationals, and the Chooks-to-Go Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup.
Of course, there’s the team’s annual camp in Baler, Aurora, which was described as being hell by the Blue Eagles.
Then there’s their overseas training sessions.
Instead of heading to usual destinations like Lithuania, Miami, Las Vegas, China, or South Korea, the Blue Eagles broke the norm, heading to Greece instead to figure in a series of tune-ups against the country’s Under-21 squad and multiple A2-level teams.
Different, yes. But it was all worth it according to fourth-year Blue Eagle Thirdy Ravena.
“I mean it exposed us to a lot of types of basketball. Not just Asian — there’s Canadian basketball, Lithuania, European,” reflected Ravena, who was crowned as the UAAP Season 81 Men’s Basketball Most Valuable Player.
“Just the fact that we were able to go up against club teams, iba talaga. Mas maraming pros sa tournament na ‘yun. It was just a great opportunity for us to improve individually and as a team,” added Ravena as there were a lot of heroes during those nine days with the Chooks-to-Go-backed Ateneo-Pilipinas.
“It was also great representing the country. It’s a great feeling to represent Team Pilipinas and your school as well.”
That is why when the final buzzer sounded for the tournament last December 5, relief could be seen in the faces of Ravena and the rest of the Blue Eagles.
“It felt like it was forever.
“Isa dun sa magandang feeling yung nakahinga ka na. Sa wakas! Eto na yun, puwede na kami magpahinga. There’s nothing at the back of your head telling you na may kailangan ka pang gawin. Ngayon, okay na,” expressed the second generation cager.
But in just a few months time, the Blue Eagles’ quest for a rare-threepeat begins. And it will most likely start in February as Ateneo, together with SMART, have declared their intention to join the PBA D-League.
Though their journey in 2019 will look to be tougher compared to a year ago, the 22-year-old Atenean would gladly face it heads as it keeps them ahead of the competition.
“If it’s working, then why not?
“Wala na akong reklamo pagkaganun. It’s going to be my last year next year so I’ll do whatever it takes to help my fellow seniors out and help the younger guys be better veterans for their rookies as well,” said the two-time UAAP gold medalist.
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