Ten seconds remaining, the Blue Eagles’ season was on the line. The quest for the six-peat was about to reach its final chapter. There was going to be no six-peat. No bonfire celebrating the continuous success of the Hail Mary Squad. Just like that, their dreams have come to an end.
That was the last scene that most people witnessed from the Ateneo Blue Eagles for quite some time. Most of collegiate basketball fans may have actually forgotten about the Blue Eagles. Talk about UAAP hoops has been directed towards the impending dynasty the greenies from Taft are about to have. You couldn’t blame fans for creating such comments. Their core is intact, they have a number of blue chip recruits who are coming in, and coaching is incredibly stable. While for the Blue Eagles? They look like they’re in rebuilding mode. They look like their about to create something new.
New. New is the main word for the Blue Eagles this year, and what highlights that word for the school from Katipunan are their rookies.
Getting To Know The Young Blood
Among locally bred recruits, Ateneo arguably has the most all-star cast of rookies. Basically, their rookie class is comparable to the class that the Kentucky Wildcats had in the recently concluded NCAA tournament. It’s an incredibly talented recruiting coup.
For this article, we will be analyzing players who have just recently concluded their high school education, are not affected by the Jerie Pingoy Rule (this means no Hubert Cani for this article), have just completed their residency (this means the African recruits are not counted), and those who were not cut from the Team A lineup (this means no Aaron Black). Let’s get it started!
Disclaimer: For the sake of this article, I will only analyze five of the multiple rookies Ateneo will have for this season. These are the five players I have the MOST knowledge about.
1. Arvin Tolentino
HS: San Beda
Position: Center/Combo Forward
Year (In College): 1st (Freshman)
It is pretty much established the Arvin Tolentino is the crown jewel of this year’s recruiting class. But one may wonder, why? He isn’t exactly like Greg Slaughter and June Mar Fajardo who possess incredible height, nor does he have the basketball IQ and athleticism that Kiefer Ravena has. So what exactly does Arvin Tolentino present for the Ateneo Blue Eagles?
UPSIDE. And LOTS of it.
Scouts have salivated about Arvin’s upside, but what exactly makes his upside so high? Consider this: he’s 6’5″, the regular height for a power forward in the pro leagues, and weighs 210 pounds. He’s heavier than the 2014 NBA Draft #1 pick Andrew Wiggins by 10 pounds. Despite those, he has amazing handles for a guy of his size. He’s deceptively quick with his crossover, so if you’re not careful, you might end up finding yourself on YouTube.
Also, he already has incredible footwork in the post for a high school player. Most players coming out of high school have sub par footwork in the post. For Arvin, that isn’t the case. He’s capable of using his pivot extremely well, and he knows how to properly use the spin move.
Lastly, he has the capability to play either as a post player or as a perimeter player. Because of his ability to handle the ball, he is capable of creating for himself in isolation. He also has the ability to pound the ball in the low block, so scoring of hook shots and spin moves won’t be much of a problem.
Credits to 3x3Planet for the video.
Based on all the strengths that he has, he looks like the perfect offensive prospect. In fact, he is. But the thing with Arvin, is that he is a tale of two extremes. He’s an extremely talented offensive player, but at the same time, he is an atrocious defender.
In the video you see above (Arvin is number 14), you will see the weaknesses Arvin possesses. Let’s start with the defense. The thing with defense, is that it demands effort. For this case, Arvin has almost none, and you can see it in the video above. You may argue “But they’re against team US of A!” Well, Thirdy was against a USA guard too, and you could see his desire to lock down his man. For Arvin? He just looked disinterested out there.
Also, the San Beda High School product has an incredibly inconsistent motor. In the video above, you can see Arvin taking A LOT of ill-advised jumpers. None of them went in. Instead of going straight to the hole using his 210-pound frame, he settles for outside jumpers. The same can be said for his performance in the NCAA. The difference is, there are also times where it seems like he just wants to dunk on everyone.
Projection for the year: Starting Power Forward
2. Thirdy Ravena
Position: Small Forward/Shooting Guard
Year (In College): 1st (Freshman)
Much like his brother and his father, Thirdy can dunk, which is a sign of athleticism. But his is simply off the roof compared to his older sibling and his father. In short, Thirdy is CRAZY ATHLETIC. He is arguably the most athletic prospect for this year’s set of rookies, having the ability to dunk not only during fastbreaks, but also in half court sets. In line with this, he also has great lateral quickness and quick feet, which brings us to his next strength: DEFENSE.
Thirdy is an amazing defender, to say the least. He has the length and the athleticism to defend multiple positions, and arguably the only position he can’t defend is the 5. He has the athleticism to block the shots of a forward, and the foot speed and length to lock down a guard.
Third(y), he is a strong rebounder for a guy his size. He started racking triple doubles as early as his third year in High School, and these games had him grabbing 15 or 14 rebounds. He has also shown his worth in international competitions, where he was evidently the best rebounder that the SEABA U-18 Team had in the recent SEABA tournament.
Lastly, he is very versatile. He has the court vision to set up his man, the ability to create his own shot, and as mentioned before, the athleticism and length to defend multiple positions.
The number one complaint people had with Thirdy was his shooting. It’s not just his jumpshot, but it’s his SHOOTING in general. Ateneo High School students were witnesses of that. During the last game of the Season 76 regular season, the Blue Eaglets were leading by six with 2:21 remaining in OT. Thirdy would miss five straight free throws, and NU would proceed to make a 9 – 0 run. Ateneo would score and get a chance to win the game, but Phenom Jolo Mendoza would miss two free throws. Just like that, NU got itself a thrice-to-beat advantage in the Finals.
Next, Thirdy is sometimes too flashy. Here’s the thing with him, he likes dunking. A LOT. Problem is, he has a tendency to force the issue, thus creating missed baskets for the team. Instead of simply scoring a layup, he opts for a dunk. Sure, the impact of a dunk is HUGE, but two points is more important right?
Lastly, the athletic wing’s ball handling is shaky. Actually, he’s admitted it himself that his ball handling needs work. There are times in the juniors where he got away with possible turnovers off his crossovers. Problem is, he isn’t in the juniors division anymore, he’s in college now.
Projection for the year: Back up Small Forward/Occasional Shooting Guard
3. Alfonso Gotladera
HS: San Beda
Year (In College): 4th (Senior)
One thing that Ateneo lacked last year was size and muscle. With Fonso, you get exactly that, LOTS of size and muscle. Even during his high School days, it was pretty evident that he’s meant to bang bodies come the collegiate ranks, and that’s exactly what he’s good at. In offense, he will bully you for points, while in defense, he will box you out like an animal.
Ateneo lacked a low post option last year. The closest thing they had to a guy in the low post was Kiefer, and he’s 5’11″. This year, they have the incoming senior to provide Ateneo with a solid option in the low post. With Arvin Tolentino, your points will come from the high post rather than the low post. With Fonso, you will surely get points from the low post, given his decent footwork, and his strength to bully opponents.
The thing is, not much is known with Gotladera ever since his high school days. He’s sat out the past two years ever since he came from La Salle. But if there is one thing that was very evident with him, even in his games in Team Glory Be, is his lack of a jump shot. Basically, he is the ideal center who is simply there to bang bodies and get rebounds. In the UAAP, you simply can’t have strength, you also need some finesse and polish from all spots in the court. We have seen that from Karim Abdul, Arnold Van Opstal, Charles Mammie (to some extent) and in the past, Rabeh Al Hussaini and Greg Slaughter. Fonso may have the strength to bully opponents, but that simply won’t be enough in today’s multi-positional type of game.
Lastly, his lack of length. Nowadays, his height is more built for a power forward rather than a center. This may become an issue not only with his individual exploits, but also with the Blue Eagles as well. This will prove an issue not only on offense, but more importantly on the defensive side of things. He doesn’t provide shot blocking, something the Blue Eagles lost with Poy Erram’s graduation last year.
Projection For The Year: Starting or Back Up Center
4. Clint Doliguez
HS: Hope Christian High School
Position: Small Forward/Shooting Guard
Year (In College): 1st (Freshman)
The truth is, with Clint, his strength is rooted from one thing. And that thing is energy. You see how Calvin Abueva seems as if he plays possessed every time? That’s how Clint is. His motor is NON-STOP. He hustles for loose balls, never lets his man get to the rim with ease, and drives to the rim with no fear. He’s an energizer bunny, which brings us to his second strength– his toughness. What he does isn’t pretty, it’s going to get him hurt, but he doesn’t care. He’s going to do whatever it takes to help his team win.
Next, Clint has great upside. He’s a very raw prospect, especially in the offensive side of things. He’s an athletic specimen, whose athleticism actually rivals that of Thirdy Ravena. His high energy game surely helps as well with his upside.
Credits to highonhoops for the video.
In basketball, with great upside comes great responsibility. No matter how corny that line may sound, it’s actually true. We’ve seen it in the NBA. Prospects such as Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley were said to have great upside, yet where are they now? With that, Clint has to polish his offensive game. As you can see in the video above, Clint relies a lot on his strength to get shots. He may have hit a couple of jumpers in that video, but in most of his games, he is solely an inside presence.
Projection: Third String Shooting Guard/Occasional Small Forward
5. Jay Javelosa
HS: Reedley International School
Position: Center/Power Forward
Year (In College): Freshman (1st Year)
It has been reported that in previous years, Jay played point guard before blossoming into a big man. Therefore, one strength for the Reedley standout is his versatility. Not only does he have the ability to find the open man and handle the ball, but he can also run the floor very well, thus becoming a very important piece in fastbreak attacks.
His next strength is his shot blocking ability. Back when he played for the Ateneo Blue Eaglets during Season 73 in his freshman year, he was one of the top shot blockers in the league. The result? Top 10 in the statistical race that season, despite having Kiefer Ravena, Von Pessumal and Paolo Romero on the team.
The most evident weakness of Jay is his lack of strength. Compared to how he was during his Freshman year, he’s actually bulked up. Problem is, his fellow big men have bulked up as well, and they have bulked up at an awesome rate. If the 6’5″ center wants to defend the Charles Mammies and the Karim Abduls, he has to gain some muscle.
The Future Is Bright, but is the Future Now?
The excitement is up in the air for the debuts of these rookies. Indeed, the future is very bright for these Blue Eagles. In fact, not much is expected from the Blue Eagles this year. But, one may consider the possibility that the future is now. With three of the rookies expected to have major roles with the Hail Mary Squad this year, it looks like the fate of Ateneo is in the hands of these young guns for this year, and eventually the next. There is no pressure and expectation to succeed, but will the rookies prove us wrong? That’s for us to find out.