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Padrigao spreads his wings and flies in first game as Ateneo’s PG1

Ateneo de Manila University was still seen as a championship contender heading into UAAP Season 85.

Still, there was a gray cloud hovering over the Blue Eagles’ heads. Who was replacing SJ Belangel at the head of the attack? Belangel, who replaced Matt Nieto, who replaced Nico Elorde, who replaced Kirk Long, who replaced Chris Tiu. You get the idea.

For head coach Tab Baldwin, though, there was no question.

“Look, if there’s a person who says they know anything about basketball in the Philippines and they don’t know Forthsky Padrigao’s name before this game, well, then they’re lying. They don’t know anything about basketball,” he said after Ateneo’s victory vs. very game Far Eastern University, Sunday at Mall of Asia Arena.

“This kid’s been a winner, a champion. He’s a tough guy. You can strip him down and there’s no fear there. He loves the moment.”

Indeed, Padrigao was all that – and more – in his first game as the Blue Eagles’ starting point guard, collecting 19 points, seven assists, six rebounds, and two steals to steer his side to a gritty win against their longtime fierce foe Tamaraws.

The 6-foot primetime playmaker was an unquestioned blue-chip recruit coming out of high school, when he was Kai Sotto’s running mate for Ateneo HS. Always and always, however, the collegiate level is a whole different level.

Padrigao already gave glimpses of translating his talents in his rookie year, as he averaged 2.9 points and 1.8 assists in seven minutes. He only played 10 games, but nonetheless proved worthy to be next in line as Ateneo’s next star guard.

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Traditionally, though, the Blue Eagles only move from one primetime playmaker to the next in two to three years. Because Belangel decided to move forward in his career by joining the Daegu KOGAS Pegasus in the Korean Basketball League, however, that timeline, all of a sudden, had to be hastened.

Meaning, Padrigao wasn’t necessarily supposed to be already starting in his second season. And yet, here he was.UAAP-85-MBB-ADMU-vs.-FEU-Forthsky-Padrigao-8399 Padrigao spreads his wings and flies in first game as Ateneo's PG1 ADMU Basketball News UAAP  - philippine sports news

“For me, I told myself before the season just to face any challenges na humarap sa akin, and then try to overcome them. For me, it’s still a learning process e kasi it’s my first year to start,” he detailed.

“Yun lang talaga. For me, it’s all about accepting all the challenges and trying to overcome (them).”

Even more, he’s already a true-blue Ateneo point guard in terms of his mindset. The next game is the most important game. Never high, never low. Keep improving.

“I treat every game like it’s just another game. Laging sinasabi sa amin ni coach Tab [Baldwin] na don’t let the moment be bigger than you,” he shared. “‘The outside noise, hindi ko talaga pinapakialaman yan. I’m just trying to lead my team.”

Make no mistake, though, this is just the start for the 21-year-old. And his mentor already has – as he is wont to do – quite a few points for improvement.

“If I can draw him instructions to find the weight room, at some point, he’s gonna be a pretty good basketball player,” Baldwin remarked.

“But you know, right now, he’s more than useful.”

A fitter frame added to the Forthsky Padrigao with all the vision, the confidence, the shot-making, the playmaking, and the spunk that is his own? Pretty good is just the floor, then.

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