Disappointing has been the start of Ateneo de Manila University in the 2023 Filoil Ecooil Preseason Cup.
Making their tournament debut 18 days after opening day, the Blue Eagles were immediately plunged against the top UAAP teams.
In a span of nine days, Ateneo faced UAAP rivals University of the Philippines, National University, De La Salle University, and Far Eastern University.
However, the defending UAAP men’s basketball champions could not come out victorious in all four games, falling by an average of 17.0 points.
Though it’s not exactly the start head coach Tab Baldwin wanted, the decorated tactician stresses that this is just the start of the process for the new-look Blue Eagles.
Moreover, the UAAP is still four months away.
“It’s preseason, it’s preseason. It’s just preparation for the season, so it won’t have a major impact on how we play,” said Baldwin after their 54-60 loss to FEU last Friday.
“We want to take the positives out of it and get better. We want to learn from the negatives.”
Baldwin and his staff have also done a lot of experimenting in the tournament, shuffling players in and out of the lineup either due to necessity or to see who is ready to crack Team A.
Well, injuries have also hampered Ateneo so far, including big guns Forthsky Padrigao (health and safety protocols) and Mason Amos (right knee).
Still, the Blue Eagles have five games left in the tournament — including games against Adamson University and University of the East.
And he hopes that before they embark to Japan and Australia, the Blue Eagles can ignite their competitive fire.
“Winning is a habit, and losing is a habit. Results aren’t the primary issue, but we can’t continue to be a team that constantly gives away the competitive edge,” he said.
“We have to find a competitive fire that forces us to play better, and right now, that’s not present, which is disappointing.”