Ateneo de Manila University is banking on the newfound international experience of its two standouts as it aims to put up a strong showing in the UAAP Season 86 Women’s Basketball Tournament.
Kacey Dela Rosa and Jhazmin Joson represented the country as part of the Gilas Women’s team in the 2023 Jones Cup during the off-season. They will lead the Blue Eagles, who are targeting an improvement on their fourth-placed finish from last season.
“I think, playing for the Gilas team is a great opportunity and a very very great experience, just because they’re way older, so they have more experience, they have more knowledge about the game,” said Joson.
“So I think, me learning from them, I can help the team, apply it with the team so that they can also learn from the game that I learned from the national team.”
“For me, playing din for Gilas, natulungan ako para mag-mature sa game ko, and para matulungan ko din yung team namin na ayun nga, mas umangat,” said Dela Rosa.
The Blue Eagles finished with a 7-7 record in Season 85’s elimination round. The Katipunan school then saw its campaign end against defending champions National University in the Final Four.
Despite the anticlimactic end to last season, the Blue Eagles gained a platform to build on for this year. They will have to compete against teams like De La Salle University and the University of Santo Tomas before they can contemplate another shot at NU, but the challenge excites them.
“For me, I have high hopes for the team, obviously, I know this season we’ll be expecting a lot of different teams but it’s still gonna be a highly competitive season. But for this season, I think Ateneo, we’re just really trying to be more prepared than last year,” said Joson.
“Masasabi ko lang, we’re prepared,” said Dela Rosa.
“Siguro, hindi ko iniisip na mas madali for me dahil sa experience kasi may scouting report na so I expect mga double teams, triple teams, this season.”
The last time Ateneo reached the finals was back in Season 78 when the Blue Eagles were led by Erika Dy, who is now a Chairperson for FIBA’s legal commission.
Reaching the finals this year will be another formidable challenge, but having the likes of Joson and Dela Rosa on the team should be a significant advantage.
“For us, we’re really excited for women’s basketball, for our girls, my team but also for the other teams,” said Mumar.
“For us, we just want to get better (and) really just worry about our team and hopefully we can have a better showing than what we produced.”