Ateneo will kick off its pre-season campaign as the Blue Eagles head to Japan next week to compete in the inaugural edition of the World University Basketball Games Series (WUBS) for their buildup in the UAAP Season 85.
The Blue Eagles are in for a huge test against the other top teams across Asia when they face Tokai University of Japan, National Chengchi University (NCCU) of Taiwan, and Universitas Pelita Harapan (UPH) of Indonesia.
Tokai finished runner-up in the All Japan Intercollegiate Basketball Championship and ruled the Kanagawa Prefecture Basketball Championship in the 2021-22 season, NCCU is the back-to-back champions of Chinese Taipei’s University Basketball Association, while UPH bagged Indonesia’s university league Liga Mahasiswa (LIMA) in 2021.
The WUBS tournament, which marks Ateneo’s first pre-season tilt since UAAP Season 82, will follow a round-robin format beginning Aug. 9 to Aug. 11 at the Yoyogi National Stadium Second Gymnasium.
Incoming Ateneo team captain BJ Andrade admitted that he knew little to no knowledge about the teams the Blue Eagles would have to go against but maintained that focus would be on the team’s chemistry and showcase.
“Sa totoo lang, wala po akong alam sa mga magiging kalaban namin pero ang importante is ‘yong team namin kung paano namin sila iha-handle,” said Andrade during a send-off press conference at the Dragon’s Nest in Bagumbayan Quezon City Thursday, Aug. 4.
“Especially right now,’di kami kasali sa Filoil (pre-season tournament). More on focus lang kami sa training. Gusto namin i-apply ‘yong mga natutunan namin sa training dito sa Japan. And sana makapagpakita kami and hopefully manalo sa lahat ng games,” added Andrade, who filled in the role left by Gian Mamuyac.
Ange Kouame, who is nursing a partial anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, for his part, said this will be a good experience for the Blue Eagles to try on new things and fix their mistakes, taking into consideration their first-runner up finish in the UAAP Season 84.
“For me, I think it’s the mistakes that we need to improve on the most. For now, it’s kind of, we try to fix our mistakes as much as we can,” said the UAAP Season 84 Most Valuable Player. “It’s more on emphasizing, fixing the ways, and realizing the ways that we’ve been missing.”
Aside from Andrade and Kouame, key mainstays Dave Ildefonso, Chris Koon, and Geo Chiu were also present while Filipino-American guard Jared Brown was introduced to the Philippine media prior to the send-off press conference.
Brown, a close friend of Koon and his former teammate at Westmont College in California, will be eligible for Season 86.