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Ateneo, La Salle: Promise land no more

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When you are in the top 10 of the best senior high school players, chances are you are going to play for Ateneo or La Salle.

And we can’t blame them. These moneyed schools have everything that a superstar high school athlete could wish for: a championship caliber basketball program, a reputable university, an allowance significantly higher that what is offered by the rest of the UAAP field, a comfortable board and lodging for those who are from far-flung provinces (a perk also extended to those who reside in Metro Manila) and a popular team that makes its players commercial models of countless products in two years or less.

The wide-eyed blue chip recruits out of high school, however, often miss an important detail: Ateneo and La Salle cannot guarantee them playing time.

A huge chunk of these blue chip recruits come so often to Ateneo and La Salle every year.

Then, a reality sinks in: a coach can only play five players on the court and tap at least three to four substitute players from time to time.

The result? These Ateneo and La Salle players leave the supposed promise land because they have no playing time, not because they cannot meet the required grade at THE Ateneo (emphasis supplied).

Last year, Green Archers Matt Salem, Robert Bolick and Terence Mustre left La Salle for other schools.

Salem is now serving one-year residency in NU, while Bolick is now with San Beda and is one of the key players of the Red Lions. Mustre, who was even recruited out of London by La Salle, is now serving residency to be able to play for the Adamson Falcons this season.

These former Archers are not alone in being relegated to bench players.

Ateneo’s Hubert Cani, Arvin Tolentino and Jeric Pingoy were in the same situation the past UAAP season and like their La Salle counterparts, left their first choice for a college team for other schools.

Cani, a former UAAP Juniors Finals MVP from NU, has already joined defending UAAP champion FEU.

Prior to his transfer, he only played six minutes per game for Ateneo in 2015.

Cani will then serve a one-year residency and can only play for the Tams in 2017. Still, he can play for FEU for at least three more UAAP seasons.

Joining Cani in FEU is Tolentino, who won the UAAP Rookie of the Year award with Ateneo two years ago. Why so? Well, from playing 22.5 minutes per game in 2014, the former Red Cub Tolentino only played 10.2 minutes per game in 2015. Naturally, his 2014 averages of 8.0 points and 5.6 rebounds per game went down to 5.33 points and 2.5 rebounds, respectively.

Last but not the least, Pingoy went to Adamson which is now under the multi-titled college coach Franz Pumaren.

Get this: Pingoy had to wait two years before he can suit up for Ateneo because of UAAP rules (since he played for another UAAP school FEU in high school), and yet, despite such agonizing wait, Pingoy opted to pack up for Adamson after just playing a year for Ateneo.

It is not hard to figure out. Pingoy did not have a breakout year and even played second fiddle to freshman Matt Nieto in playmaking duties for Ateneo last season. With inconsistent number of minutes, it did not surprise us that Pingoy never got anything going.

It has been reported that the Eagles did not meet the required grade and as such, left for other schools. But who are we kidding here?

All UAAP and non-UAAP schools require a certain general weighted average of academic score for a varsity player to be a part of the official lineup. And granted that some athletes get cut of the team because of academic deficiencies, it does not mean that they are kicked out of school.

A lot of them stay, like Thirdy Ravena of Ateneo and Louie Vigil of UST who were cut from the team at one point because of academic deficiencies.

But Ravena and Vigil never left. And that’s because even if they take a year of hiatus, they know they will have a significant playing time once they earn enough grades and play for the varsity team again.

The stories of these players should serve a lesson to student-athletes out there, regardless if you are a highly touted recruit.

Ateneo and La Salle do not always have what you ultimately need: a significant playing time for you to sharpen, develop and maximize your skills onward to the pros or even the national team. (Roxanne Enriquez and Jen Soltano)