Heading into their rivalry game against the De La Salle University Green Archers, the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles have been the headlines of sports pages for the past month.
The Blue Eagles are currently the hottest team in the UAAP right now, riding a four-game winning streak. However, during that stretch, they have also been plagued by certain off-court issues that are deemed unnecessary distractions by the collegiate basketball fans.
Tiebreaker Times had the opportunity to talk to Ateneo’s co-captain and ace shooter Von Pessumal about his thoughts on the Ateneo-La Salle game and the morale of the Katipunan-based squad.
Von Pessumal has played his entire high school and collegiate basketball career with the Blue Eagles. In the UAAP Seniors Division, he has compiled a 2-4 record against their rivals.
For the Smart Elite Ambassador, the feeling of playing in an Ateneo-La Salle game never gets old. “I’d love to say that it’s just like any other game and I approach every game the same way – play the game and let the game come to me. But knowing that this is an Ateneo-La Salle game and there are a lot at stake, I can’t really say that it’s just a normal game,” he told Tiebreaker Times.
For him, the biggest factor in the contest is on-court composure. “I feel like composure is one of the biggest factors in playing in an Ateneo-La Salle atmosphere,” he reflected. “The environment is so rowdy, everyone is shouting, and everyone is really excited. As a player, you have to be the most composed person in the coliseum.”
As one of the team’s leaders, he takes it as a responsibility to prep his teammates, especially the first year players, for what to expect in this game. “We always tell our rookies that when its Ateneo-La Salle, everything is twice as loud. Everything is magnified.”
He then stressed that the team’s rookies have played a huge role in Ateneo’s second-round rampage, and are ready to head into their second rivalry game much more composed compared to their first round encounter “I really believe that our rookies aren’t rookies anymore since they’ve been through so much. Even if they are first year players in the UAAP, they are more composed than how people perceive them to be.”
However, off-court issues involving two members of the squad have made this second round more turbulent for the Katipunan cagers. Pessumal, however, believes these adversities will only make the team stronger and more cohesive. “Actually a lot of people think that our focus has shifted because of the off-court issues but we bonded more through the adversity,” he disclosed.
Moreover, the team is channelling this as a motivation to perform on the court as well. “Right now, the heat is on us. It doesn’t mean that our focus on the goal of winning the championship goes the other way. It actually made us stronger as a team. We’re looking out for each other more because they are the only people we could trust right now both in and our of the court.”
Looking forward to their game against La Salle, Pessumal hopes he can end his collegiate career with a win against La Salle. “Just like any other game, we are expecting to win. We’ll make sure that we come prepared for the game,” he closed.
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