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Aaron Black, Adrian Wong: A glimpse at Ateneo’s future



By: Joaqui Flores and Matthew Li

The Ateneo Blue Eagles’ up-and-down performance during the first round seems a distant memory with the way they are playing now.

Since losing against the FEU Tamaraws during their second round opener, the Eagles have hit their stride, winning their next five games capped with a scintillating victory over rivals, the De La Salle University Green Archers last Sunday.

Besides the usual suspects and seniors Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal, two first-year players stepped up at the right time. Former Batang Gilas member Aaron Black and Filipino-American Adrian Wong stepped up to blitz the Archers’ defense. Black ended the game with a statline of 13 markers on 5/9 shooting in just 13 minutes of play, while Wong tallied ten points on a 75% clip. More importantly, they gave Ateneo a shot at a twice-to-beat incentive.

Since Jerie Pingoy went down with an injury, Wong has quickly picked up the cudgels as the second unit’s primary playmaker. With his height and size advantage, he is a walking mismatch on the court, especially when lined up against the league’s smaller guards. The squad also benefited from his ability to play in multiple positions.

On the other hand, Black’s ability to create his own shots has proved a lethal weapon for the second-unit of the Blue Eagles. Last Sunday, with the Blue Eagles down by as much as ten in the first two quarters, Black led the Eagles in a second-quarter turnaround that cut the La Salle lead to just five entering the second half.

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Aaron Black, Adrian Wong: A glimpse at Ateneo's future News    “When we come into the floor we always want to be aggressive on offense and defense. In our team we bank on the fact that a lot of guys can score, break out, and have a good game,” Black said about the second quarter Ateneo rally. “It wasn’t really planned, it was just everyone coming out and being aggressive.”

“Coach Ronnie [Magsanoc] told me to stay aggressive and keep attacking the basket,” Black reflected when asked about what the staff had told him during halftime. “[Coach told me to] Look also to my drop passes to the bigs so we can get them going.”

Wong, who tallied six points in the third quarter to give Ateneo the lead, credited Coach Bo Perasol for giving him the confidence and trust he needed. “He’s always trusted me even before the season. He always told me that you could this and I know you can. He’s always putting me up,” Wong said with gratitude.

“So I mean, that helps a lot on the player and coach has everyone’s back on the team. It’s his job and what he does. He’s a great coach,” he added about his mentor.

Playing big minutes in one of the Philippines’ biggest sporting rivalries, Wong admitted that the jampacked arena was a sight to behold in person. “It’s great [winning against La Salle]. Coming here, I heard about how this is one of the biggest rivalries here,” Wong shared. “I mean, from what I see, the stage is packed and the crowd is into it. It’s just a great feeling to do good in this game.”

It’s the same sentiment shared by fellow rookie Aaron Black. “The past few games Coach Bo has been telling me to be ready, especially in the UST game. So i just stayed ready. The crowd had a really good atmosphere, so once I came out and got going it really helped me a lot,” he said. “Well, of course for an Ateneo – La Salle game everyone is nervous. I try to make it into a point that when I get into the game I turn [the nervousness] into aggression.”

A stint with the Batang Gilas squad helped Black in his transition to the college game. “Well the Gilas experience was really big. In Qatar it felt like we had home court advantage every game. There were at least five to six thousand Filipinos every game. It was a crazy atmosphere,” he delightfully shared. “It wasn’t as big as Ateneo – La Salle but it was something that prepared me for that. Gilas also helped with my skills, develop my ball handling more, which was something I needed to develop last year.”

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Aaron Black, Adrian Wong: A glimpse at Ateneo's future News
On the other hand, Wong credited senior Kiefer Ravena for helping him prepare for the big games. “He’s big. He tells us everything. He’s been here four to five years and he’s been through everything,” Wong added. “He’s been through all the ups and downs so he just tells us from his experience on what is good or bad. He always keeps us composed.”

With just one regular season game remaining for the Blue Eagles and the Final Four just a week away, Wong and the Blue Eagles are locked-in on the prize: the UAAP Championship. “I’m satisfied [with my current performance now], of course. As long as we get the win, it doesn’t matter what I do. We’re just striving for the championship,” Wong ended. “Hopefully I just make my shots and that’s all I could say for now.”

Black added that they are doing this for their seniors and want them to graduate with the crown back in Katipunan. “You can expect us to do whatever it takes to help the team win a championship, because that’s what we want. We want Kiefer, Von, Gwynne [Capacio], and Fonso [Gotladera] with a ring on their fingers.”