SJ Belangel couldn’t be happier as his former team Ateneo recently became the champion of the inaugural World Basketball Series (WUBS) in Tokyo, Japan.
The Korean Basketball League-bound point guard sees a bright future for the Blue Eagles despite the departure of many players, including him, as well as seniors Tyler Tio, Gian Mamuyac, Raffy Verano, and Jolo Mendoza.
“I think for me right now sobrang saya ko,” said Belangel, who is already in Korea to start practice with the Daegu KOGAS Pegasus. “Which is why it proves na the system is always there. Whether or not the players are out, madaming bago pero the system remains. That means na ‘yong na-build naming system ni coach Tab, whether or not you like it or not, nandoon pa rin. Magcha-champion pa rin kahit anong mangyari basta sumunod ka lang.”
And as someone who has been under Baldwin’s system, even as a Gilas Pilipinas stalwart, the 23-year-old Belangel is more than proud of his former teammates and collegiate mentor.
“With that for me, just proud [of them]. While watching kanina, so papauwi pa lang naman sila so tatawagan ko sila mamaya. Masayang masaya ako para sa kanila especially for coach Tab actually,” added Belangel, who graced the JG4 Manila Tour of Houston Rockets rising star Jalen Green at the Ayala Malls Manila Bay in Parañaque City Thursday, Aug. 11.
Competing in the WUBS marks Ateneo’s first pre-season tournament since the lack of competitions after Season 82 when the Covid-19 pandemic halted the sporting world.
The win provides a huge boost for the Eagles, especially after a heartbreaking loss against the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons in the UAAP Season 84 Finals which made them the second runner-up.
Sans Belangel though, an intact core in Ange Kouame, Dave Ildefonso, Geo Chiu, Chris Koon, and BJ Andrade will be available for Ateneo when Season 85 begins in the next couple of months.
But one particular player made head turns in the WUBS and Belangel, who was the first Filipino to be under the “Asian Player Quota” in Korea, isn’t really surprised with how Kai Balunggay performed and turned out to be Ateneo’s next lethal weapon.
“Actually ‘di namn ako nagulat pero si Kai [impressed me the most] and Kai has been waiting for that moment especially noong time na hindi pa siya makalaro due to residency,” said the former Ateneo guard.
“For me, napakita niya why he’s gonna be the future of Ateneo soon. Excited din ako sa kanya, sa UAAP career niya. Syempre, Paul Garcia is there [too]. Nakita ko mga highlights niya, he proves it, he proves everything sa pinapakita niya.”
In the WUBS, Ildefonso, Balunggay, and Garcia provided firepower for the Eagles as they bested three other teams in Asia namely Japan’s Tokai University, Taiwan’s National Chengchi University, and Indonesia’s Universitas Pelita Harapan to complete their tournament sweep. ###