***This originally appeared in Via eXis Sports FB Page here.
Amidst all the hype surrounding the star-studded rookies of Season 84, it was two transferees from the Season 81 rookie class that shone brightest.
In the first Battle of Katipunan in more than two years, Dave Ildefonso led the Ateneo Blue Eagles to a 90-81 victory over the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons at the Mall Of Asia Arena last March 26, 2022.
Ildefonso had 19 points and six rebounds in his first game game back in blue and white.
After helping lead the Ateneo Blue Eaglets to the juniors division championship in Season 80, he went to National University (NU) and starred for the Bulldogs during the next two seasons. His transfer to Ateneo was announced back in January 2020, right before the pandemic hit.
In 2021, Ildefonso was part of the Gilas Pilipinas line-up that saw action in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers and the King Abdullah Cup. That team was also coached by Ateneo Head Coach Tab Baldwin.
On the other side of the court, CJ Cansino was back to his pre-ACL injury self as he led the Fighting Maroons wit 21 points, five rebounds, and three steals.
Cansino, the Season 80 juniors Most Valuable Player, stayed home in España when he moved up to the seniors division. The University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tiger was having a great rookie season before suffering an ACL injury in November 2018.
He returned to the court in Season 82 and was part of the Growling Tigers team that lost to the Blue Eagles in the finals.
In August 2020, after issues that saw most of the Growling Tigers leave for other teams, it was announced that Cansino will be transferring to UP.
Aside from Ildefonso, Ateneo also got good games from Ange Kouame (eleven points and 13 rebounds) and SJ Belangel (ten points, seven rebounds, and five assists). Both Kouame and Belangel were part of the Gilas Pilipinas line-up together with Ildefonso. They were also part of the Season 81 rookie class, with Kouame winning the Rookie of the Year award.
Another bright spot for the Blue Eagles was the returning Raffy Verano. The power forward, who sat out in Season 82, had 18 points in a very efficient 80% field goal percentage, including one three-pointer. He also had five rebounds and two assists.
Top rookie Carl Tamayo had 13 points and ten rebounds in his seniors division debut for UP.
Tamayo, one of the most anticipated rookies this season, was also in the 2021 Gilas Pilipinas line-up. He was also part of the NU Bullpups that won back to back juniors division championships in Seasons 81 and 82. That Bullpups team was coached by now UP Head Coach Goldwin Monteverde.
Malick Diouf, a transferee from the Centro Escolar University (CEU) Scorpions, had 15 points, nine rebounds and two blocks for the Fighting Maroons while Ricci Rivero, one of the team’s few holdovers, had eleven points to go with three rebounds and three assists.
Pre-season predictions have both Ateneo and UP entering the Final Four this season.
Ateneo 90 – Ildefonso 19, Verano 18, Kouame 11, Belangel 10, Mamuyac 9, Mendoza 6, Tio 5, Chiu 4, Daves 4, Koon 2, Lazaro 2, Andrade 0, Gomez 0, Mallilin 0.
UP 81 – Cansino 21, Diouf 15, Tamayo 13, Rivero 11, Fortea 5, Spencer 4, Cagulangan 4, Lucero 2, Catapusan 2, Abadiano 2, Webb 2, Alarcon 0.
Quarterscores: 26-18, 46-35, 71-54, 90-81.
// by Francis Abad