Mon. May 27th, 2024
Josh Lazaro (No. 16) slams one home for what proved to be the marginal point in the last 52.1seconds of a 70-69 win over the Japan U-21 team. —WORLD UNIVERSITY BASKETBALL SERIES

Josh Lazaro (No. 16) slams one home for what proved to be the marginal point in the last 52.1
seconds of a 70-69 win over the Japan U-21 team. —WORLD UNIVERSITY BASKETBALL SERIES

Tab Baldwin is making it no secret that he’s at Ateneo to make champion teams out of every batch of Blue Eagles he coaches while at the same time preparing them for lucrative professional careers.

“That’s the role of universities—to create, mold professionals,” Baldwin told the Inquirer on Thursday night after a 70-69 win over a Japanese Under-21 selection at Yoyogi National Stadium, here where he played his younger players and got a result that made him proud. “Ours (basketball) is just a different kind (of education).

“But, for sure, that’s what we’re here for.”

A winner of five of the past six UAAP championships, Baldwin is proud of the players who were or are still under the program.

“They’re all ready for the next step,” Baldwin said of some of his graduates, most notably BJ Andrade and Ange Kouame.

“I try and make sure that I make them better players in terms of where they can be most effective,” he said. “And most of them have turned in the time in helping themselves (get there).”

Kouame is still taking part in Gilas Pilipinas preparations for the World Cup and the Asian Games and could get the call depending on the availability of the other naturalized players, Jordan Clarkson and Justin Brownlee.

“We really prepared him to be Europe (basketball)-ready,” he said. “He still has some improving to do, but he will have a career there if he decides to take that path.”

ACL tear recovery

Andrade, meanwhile, is on the road—literally—to getting back to perfect shape which could see him apply for the PBA Draft next month.

“He’s biking now, coach,” Sean Quitevis, another injured regular who joined the team here, answered when Baldwin asked how Andrade is doing. His former guard came down with an ACL tear earlier in the year, had surgery and is fast-tracking his rehab to get back to basketball shape.

“Coaches (in the PBA) are going to love him,” Baldwin said. “That kid can do it all, let me tell you. He makes everyone else in the team better and he’s a winner.”

His current batch of Eagles are also littered with promising talent and he continues to be impressed by them because all of them are hard workers.

Even though he lost Forthsky Padrigao a couple of weeks ago because of academic deficiencies and personal issues hounding the point guard, Baldwin still has a formidable roster.

With Kai Ballungay and Geo Chiu returning to form a fearsome triumvirate with 6-foot-10 Joseph Obasa in the middle, the Eagles will go into UAAP Season 86 as the favorites.

“There’s still a lot of teams that can beat us out there,” he said. “We will still have to work hard for it (another championship).”

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By Sandra Winters

Writer | Author | Wordsmith Passionate about crafting stories that captivate and inspire. Published author of [Book Title]. Dedicated to exploring the depths of human emotions and experiences through the power of words. Join me on this literary journey as we delve into the realms of imagination and uncover the beauty of storytelling.