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Ateneo, UP, FEU unanimous choices for UAAP title contenders

The UAAP men's basketball coaches see Ateneo, FEU, and UP as title contenders. Screen capture via Zoom
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANDALUYONG--The UAAP men's basketball event could be for Ateneo, Far Eastern University, and the University of the Philippines to lose.

During the press launch of UAAP Season 84, the first UAAP men's basketball tournament to be played after almost three years amid the COVID-19 pandemic, at the TV5 Media Center here on Wednesday, all the eight coaches for this season unanimously believe the Blue Eagles, the Tamaraws, and the Fighting Maroons are the top teams to beat.

Made even better by their stints with Gilas Pilipinas in recent times, SJ Belangel, Dave Ildefonso, Geo Chiu, Gian Mamuyac, and Ange Kouame will spearhead Ateneo's campaign as it looks to stretch its current UAAP dominance into a 4-peat.

Also to watch for the lads from Loyola Heights coached by Tab Baldwin are BJ Andrade, RV Berjay, Jason Credo, Matthew Daves, Vince Gomez, Josh Lazaro, Troy Mallillin, Jolo Mendoza, Forthsky Padrigao, Tyler Tio, and Raffy Verano.

Meanwhile, from the maroon side of Katipunan Avenue comes the product of arguably the biggest offseason shakeup the UAAP has seen in recent years.

JBoy Gob, Ricci Rivero, James Spencer, and Noah Webb will lead the way for UP.

Joining Coach Goldwyn Monteverde's stacked roster as key players are Gerry Abadiano, Joel Cagulangan, RC Calimag, CJ Cansino, Malick Diouf, Terrence Fortea, Henry Galinato, Bismarck Lina, and Carl Tamayo.

Interestingly enough, UAAP fans will get an early potential finals preview as both teams will face off on Matchday 1 of the season on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.

Both the Blue Eagles and the Fighting Maroons will collide in the third game of a quadruple-header at 4 p.m.

On the other hand, Olsen Racela's FEU squad will be led by RJ Abarrientos, Cholo Anonuevo, L-Jay Gonzales, Brandrey Bienes, Joshua Ramirez, and Emmanuel Ojuola.

Meanwhile, some of the coaches think two teams could spoil the party.

Monteverde, National University coach Jeff Napa, and University of the East coach Jack Santiago said La Salle is also a team to beat this season.

Coach Derrick Pumaren will have Balti Baltazar taking charge for the Green Archers with Raven Cortez, Vince Cuajao, Penny Estacio, Kurt Lojera, Joaqui Manuel, Even Nelle, Mark Nonoy, and Benjamin and Michael Phillips backstopping the team.

For Pumaren, though, the University of Santo Tomas, Season 82's runner-up, could still put up a fight for the championship despite losing Coach Aldin Ayo and a good bunch of key players like Cansino, Nonoy, and even Rhenz Abando due to highly-publicized transfers.

Coach Jinino Manansala's Growling Tigers will be led by Dave Ando, Sherwin Concepcion, Joshua Fontanilla, and Jordi Gomez De Liano.

Due to the preseason COVID-19 restrictions placing their teams inside training bubbles, the coaches attended the press conference via Zoom.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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