Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

A look at the Ateneo Blue Eagles heading into Season 78

A look at the Ateneo Blue Eagles heading into Season 78 
by rick olivares

Coach: Bo Perasol who played for the UP Maroons in the late 80s. In his third year at the Eastern end of Katipunan.
Season 77 record: 11-5 including Final Four

Losses: Anton Asistio, Clint Doliguez, Nico Elorde, Jay Javelosa, Isaac Lim, Chris Newsome, Kris Porter, and Thirdy Ravena.

Holdovers: John Apacible, Gboy Babilonia, Gwyne Capacio, Ponso Gotladera, Von Pessumal, Kiefer Ravena, Arvin Tolentino, and Vince Tolentino.

Newcomers: Aaron Black, Hubert Cani, Chibueze Ikeh, Matt Nieto, Mike Nieto, Jerie Pingoy, Adrian Wong.

Team breakdown:
Okay, they are arguably a better team than last season. For one, there's more talent and they improved themselves in every position. 

Lots of ifs for their frontline that is still suspect. If six-foot-nine Nigerian Chibueze Ikeh can rebound and provide lane defense that would plug a gaping hole in the middle. If Ponso Gotladera can reprise his fireman's role last year that's going to be huge especially now he will slide back and forth from the five and the four. If Arvin Tolentino learns to play some defense that would help immensely. If Big John Apacible can be a little more sure with his under goal stabs and if he is allowed to work inside then he could live up to the promise of his high school days.

But make no mistake, if the Blue Eagles want to win, the onus is on Ikeh to hold the middle against the rampaging monsters of the midway in Karim Abdul and Alfred Aroga. If you look at every Ateneo champion team in the UAAP, they featured a top-flight center -- Danny Francisco, Rico Villanueva, Rabeh Al-Hussaini, and Greg Slaughter. If Ikeh fits the bill then pencil the Blue Eagles as a big time contender.

Now there's a disparity between the experience of the veterans like Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal and the other holdovers and newcomers. Of the veterans, mention must be made about Gwyne Capacio who has yet to have that breakout season. This is his last chance to do so. Stymied by injury and inconsistent and poor play due to a roller coaster ride of emotions and confidence, he is finally healthy and raring to go. If he can bring consistent scoring and defense to the three-spot, then Bo Perasol will have another reliable player. Backing him up will be Mike Nieto and it would be interesting to see how he adjusts to the college game where the players are even taller and stronger.

Having said that, the Blue Eagles' basketball IQ went up with Cani, the Nieto brothers, and Pingoy in tow. If Jerie Pingoy and Hubert Cani can solidify that point guard position with passing savvy, creativity, and scoring not to mention perimeter defense they could be the best point guard tandem in the league. How they mesh with their teammates is of great interest since they are players who need to handle the ball in order to be effective. Obviously, you have to give Kiefer the ball. Arvin too lest he get into a funk. So ball and shot distribution is something a lot of people will keenly follow.

Ravena is already tried and tested when it comes to delivering in the clutch. Adding Cani and Pingoy adds to the big game finishers that Perasol can count on. And that augurs well because the opponents now cannot just focus their defense on Ravena. Of course, Cani and Pingoy have to show their worth in the college ranks before they'll be given a chance to take that shot. Team B basketball is way different when the bright lights of the Big Dome and the Arena come on with the drums beating like the thump of the heart where every cheer and yell is greatly magnified.

This Blue Eagle team can shoot. Aside from Pessumal, Perasol can count on Aaron Black to launch those long toms. The guards too can hit it from there. If the Blue Eagle shooters find the range early on it will give their inside operators room to apply some surgery.

As for their defense, they have their work cut out for them. They were the third worst in defense last year. Sure the team is in transition but that is not an excuse. If you can't score, play some D. That is why there is a banner at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center that says, "Defense wins championships." Unless someone removed that they should bring it back because that truism applies to them.

If the Blue Eagles want to win it all this year, they have to get past NU who they have not beaten in six consecutive outings. During the last Blue Eagle dynasty, NU was tugging at their cape. Now it's the other way around. 

The Final Four loss to NU last year especially after losing a twice-to-beat advantage is something that sticks in their craw. And that serves as a lot of motivation to not only get back at their new tormentors that has emerged as their new rival but also to serve as a nice send off for their veteran players.


  1. "If you look at every Ateneo champion team in the UAAP, they featured a top-flight center -- Danny Francisco, Rico Villanueva, Rabeh Al-Hussaini, and Greg Slaughter. If Ikeh fits the bill then pencil the Blue Eagles as a big time contender."

    Not true. 2010 featured a center rotation of Chua / Golla / Erram. None of those guys were "top-flight".

    1. Maybe you weren't paying attention when Justin Chua was recruited. He was contested by several schools coming out of high school. He had the misfortune of playing behind Rabeh in his first two years and that eroded his confidence. He showed what he could do in 2010. Then Greg came over and he was told that anytime you have a seven-footer, you play him. But Justin did beat Greg when he led BlackWater to a D-League title. If that isn't topflight I don't know what else is.

    2. Pretty sure you're misinterpreting what I was pointing out.

      You say that every Ateneo championship team featured a top-flight center and then you imply that a "top-flight center" is someone among the likes of Villanueva, Al-Hussaini, and Slaughter. In all those championship seasons, these guys were either MVPs, focal points of the offense or defense, and/or at the very least, part of the mythical 5 for that championship season. In 2010, Chua was none of those things, and was a role player on that squad. (No idea what the mins distribution was but he was probably behind Long, Salamat and Buenafe, if I remember correctly).

      Don't get me wrong, I love Justin Chua and I'm happy that he found success with BlackWater in the D-League. But during the 2010 championship run, he was not "top-flight". It doesn't matter if he was a 5-star recruit out of HS or turned into an elite center afterwards in the D-League: 2010 was an example of an Ateneo championship team that at the time didn't feature (at least, by my standards) a top flight center.

  2. Hi. I believe Isaac Go is part of the team this year as well.

  3. If we had Justin these last two years, we could've won at least one championship.