Coach Tab Baldwin shows love to Blue Eagles seniors
The Ateneo Blue Eagles just won their third straight championship in Game 2 against UST Growling Tigers on Wednesday — and it’s all thanks to their seniors’ valiant efforts.
Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin had nothing but huge praises and appreciations for his outgoing players — which are Thirdy Ravena, Matt and Mike Nieto, Isaac Go, and Adrian Wong.
“They’re special, special. That word doesn’t cut it. They’re incredible guys,” Baldwin said.
“There were these guys in the beginning and of course we had that exodus. I was left with these guys. What they are now, I didn’t see it. I’ll be honest. I didn’t see it. I knew they were good, young men. I didn’t doubt that they could be champions but it wasn’t evident even though some of these guys had championship pedigrees from high school. But there’s not a person in the Philippines now that follows basketball that they can say they’re looking at five champions. And I’m telling you that it’s not just on the court. It’s not just in the UAAP.”
Baldwin singled out each of his seniors for their strengths and contribution to the team for the past four years that he had coached them, and all of them “have grown as leaders,” as he bared.
“Mike is probably a natural leader. Mike is a communicator. Mike is a thinker,” Baldwin said to team captain Mike Nieto.
The Fil-Kiwi mentor then praised Thirdy’s competitiveness while he then commended Go’s IQ on the court.
“As we go through this group, Thirdy is an incredible competitor, he’s a fighter, he’s impetuous, he’s emotional. He can go the wrong way as easily he can go the right way. Fortunately for us, he so often goes that just by weight of numbers, he goes the right way a lot,” he shared.
“George (Isaac Go) is a guy that I didn’t expect a lot from George from the beginning. I knew he was intelligent. But what he has in terms of the context of our team, he has respect from everybody, including all the coaches, for a person who gives everything he has to give.”
As for Wong, his skills on both ends on the floor will definitely be missed by Baldwin.
“AD I don’t really have a lot to say because I really didn’t think that I was gonna lose him. Why do I hate losing him? Man, two-way players there aren’t around everyday. He’s a force at the defensive end and he’s such a reliable offensive player when it comes to shooting. He’s execution on offense, he’s just incredibly reliable. And he’s a star in the making this guy. Trust me he’s a star in the making,” he confessed.
Lastly, Coach Tab credited Matt’s winning mentality that inspired a lot of his teammates.
“This guy right here (Matt) , he’s something between a brother and a son, certainly a friend. You can just put a W on his head. Hes a winner. He wins all the time. And losing hurts him more than anybody else. And he takes it personal and he carries it onto the next event so he doesn’t lose that one. I think all of these guys give us a lot of character but a lot of times, as Matt goes, we go. The rest he knows. I’ve told him. He’s a special human being,” he stated.
Although Baldwin will definitely emphasize the “Next Man Up” philosophy for the Blue Eagles, these five seniors are truly irreplaceable for him.
“So I thank you to each and every one of you guys. You’re all special. You’ve brought something incredibly special to this team and you will be a gigantic hole to fill. Of course we will work hard in filling it. And they know they better come back and see us and even train with us and we’ll get them in shape. I love them all. I love them all.”