For the last four years, every battle between the Ateneo Blue Eagles and the FEU Tamaraws have been highly-competitive to say the least. But for two student-athletes who are on opposing sides, being on the same court is something that they relish.
Back in 2014, the Batang Gilas program achieved a milestone as the program’s Under-17 squad made the World Cup for the first time. Manning the frontline of that team are Mike Nieto, who was then known as Big Mike, and Richard Escoto.
That golden batch finished a gallant 15th place in the tourney that happened in Dubai, UAE.
A year later, the two would find themselves called up to duty once again as the two were part of the quartet called up to join the FIBA 3×3 Under-18 World Cup.
Though they ended up in opposing camps, the two remained as close as ever. And despite figuring in heated encounters, both Nieto and Escoto always look forward to sharing the court once again.
“Best friend ko si Richard.
“Those kinds of moments is really precious kasi spending your time with your best friend on the court and.. Ako, unfortunately losing the game to him, it’s [still] an experience to cherish forever,” shared Nieto, now 21-year-old, after Ateneo’s 60-63 loss to FEU, Wednesday.
Both Nieto and Escoto played pivotal roles in the contest.
Escoto played 24 minutes in the contest, finishing with six rebounds and four points while helping defend Angelo Kouame. For his part, Nieto scored five of his eight points in the final frame as he tried to will Ateneo back into the contest
And there was a point in the game that saw Thirdy Ravena inadvertently hit Escoto with a forearm at the back of his head. Fortunately, Nieto was there to help cool things down.
“Nagkakalokohan na nga lang kami ni Richard doon eh. Nung natamaan siya ni Thirdy, sabi ko, ‘Ayan na naman kayo sa depensa niyo’,” he narrated.
Though Nieto and the Blue Eagles lost the contest, Nieto knows that they lost to the better team that night.
“Sabi nga nila pag against FEU, palaging bakbakan since last year eh. Kagaya ng semis last year, natalo din kami, di namin makakalimutan yun,” recalled the Ateneo lifer.
“FEU is really a strong team, we respect each other.”
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