Safe to say, Paul Desiderio’s status as a cult hero extends to the other side of Katipunan.
For the better part of the decade, the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles have dominated the UAAP Men’s Basketball tournament, winning seven of the last 11 championships. But in Diliman, a movement was slowly rising.
And the man leading the revolution was Paul Desiderio.
Behind Desiderio’s Atin ‘To battle cry, the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons exceeded expectations. This Season 81, they made it to the Finals for the first time in 32 years.
Though Ateneo dominated the Finals series, fourth-year Blue Eagles floor general Matt Nieto would be the first to admit that they had a hard time containing the Fighting Maroons.
“UP’s a different team from the eliminations, and now in the playoff, they’re a different animal. Talagang gusto nila manalo,” shared Nieto, who averaged 16.5 points per game in the Finals series.
“They’re hungry, they have a good system, they have good players.”
And Matt, together with his brother Mike, made sure to pay tribute to the Maroon who fought valiantly for UP – Paul Desiderio, their teammate in Batang Gilas back in 2014.
“And I’m proud of them, especially yung bata kong si Paul. He changed the history of UP,” expressed Matt.
“I’m proud of that captain right there.”
“Yun nga, yung ‘Atin ’To’ last year na motto ni Paul na naging battle cry ng UP… Actually nung semis nga, nanood kami sabay-sabay sa viewing room sa Ateneo,” recalled Mike. “It’s really an exciting game between Adamson and UP. Siyempre, at the end nanalo UP. Wala eh, wala ako masabi sa UP, yung battlecry nila, yung laban nila, lalo na.”
“I’m really proud of my teammate si Paul. He led the team.”
Next season, the Fighting Maroons are expected to be a powerhouse, with Juan Gomez de Liano leading the charge while having running buddies in Kobe Paras and Ricci Rivero. But all of this would not have been possible without Desiderio’s vision.
“Sinabi ko lang talga sa kanya, you still won this game. You changed the name of UP. “