First it was Jolo Mendoza who stepped up in Ateneo's first game, then it was rookie Tyler Tio. Ateneo is shuffling their scoring options to blowout effect so far.
The Ateneo Blue Eagles did not leave their Battle of Katipunan win against the UP Fighting Maroons up to chance, especially after their street neighbors recently stunned the UST Growling Tigers with a game-winner courtesy of Paul Desiderio. En route to their 92-71 blowout on Wednesday, September 13, they ensured that not only would they win, but also embarrass their opposition while at it.
Make that two straight 20-point wins for the almighty Eagles after they also humiliated the Franz Pumaren-led Adamson Soaring Falcons in the season opener, 85-65. That fact is scary on its own, but looking closer, both wins also only had 2 players score in double-figures. First it was Thirdy Ravena and Chibueze Ikeh, then Ravena and the debuting Tyler Tio.
In his very first collegiate game, Tio marked 14 points on a perfect 6/6 shooting, 2/2 from three along with two assists and no turnovers. We see you, rook.
After the game, he was taken to the media and he answered questions with the usual schtick: Give credit to teammates and coaches, emphasizing how team-oriented you are. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, as it speaks volumes on a player’s humility and dedication to the system in place.
However, what’s more impressive than a rookie’s perfect debut game is the fact that Ateneo has stayed on its course of establishing a deliberate half-court offense with seemingly little to no reliance on any set of players. Last season, after the departure of Eagle superstar Kiefer Ravena and the arrival of former Gilas coach Tab Baldwin, no Ateneo player averaged in double-digits all season. The younger Ravena came close at 9.9, but the fact that he didn’t even crack 10 says a lot on the sturdiness of Baldwin’s coaching style.
This season, after two blowout wins, we have gotten a small sample size on the true potential of this Kiefer-less, team-first Ateneo squad. Assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga emphasized on this after the UP game, praising how all of his players stepped up.
“Almost everyone contributed offensively,” he said. “That’s the way we want to play. We don’t know who’s gonna hit double figures for us each game.” Looking at the stat sheet, he sure got the “we don’t know” part right. Fourteen different players scored while 7 of them scored at least 7 points.
Of course, he also gave extra praise to Tio’s spotless outing. “It was a very good performance, “he said. “He played his game and we needed him to play well. Last game, it was Jolo [Mendoza] who played well for us, now it’s Tyler.”
“When you get the ball moving, you don’t know where the offense is gonna come from and that’s the good thing,” he added. “We’d be harder to defend as a team. We’d like to continue moving that way.”