THE Ateneo Blue Eagles, fresh off four championships, will represent the country in the 40th staging of the William Jones Cup in lieu of the regular men’s national team players who are deep into their campaign with their mother clubs in the professional league.
Manuel V. Pangilinan, chairman Emeritus of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, met the Blue Eagles during a sendoff for Jones Cup recently.
“With the ongoing season of the Philippine Basketball Association where all our national players are still participating, and our Gilas Cadets, all seeing action in various leagues, we felt that it was best to send a team that has performed well and has the cohesion to compete,” Pangilinan said.
The Jones Cup will be held from July 14 to 22 at the Xinzhuang Gymnasium in New Taipei City, Taiwan.
The appointment of Ateneo comes at a time when the national team is taxed to the limit given the ongoing Fiba investigations after the brawl between the Philippines and Australia last July 2.
Veteran national and former Ateneo Coach Joe Lipa confirmed that this is the first time that a collegiate squad will represent the country.
The previous teams had more De La Salle flavor to the Northern Consolidated Squad, but it also featured stars from other schools, such as San Beda and Letran—as well as some naturalized players.
“The task will not be easy,” Pangilinan stressed. “Other teams will also send their collegians, but most will feature senior or junior national teams aided by imports. But that is how we as Filipinos go about it—as underdogs with a sense of purpose and a determination to prove our worth while representing our country. In my opinion, that is a powerful combination.”
Former National Coach Tab Baldwin, current coach of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines champion, will oversee the Ateneo team’s Jones Cup campaign. The Filipinos will only have freshman center Angelo Kouame from Ivory Coast to battle the foreign behemoths.
Baldwin could possibly activate 5-foot-5 Filipino-Canadian Matthew Daves to give the Philippines additional ceiling for the tournament.
Ateneo’s campaign is backed by Smart.