THE ATENEO Blue Eagles are much revered for winning the last five championship titles in the Men’s Basketball Seniors’ division of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP). Celebrated for bringing the Ateneo community together to cheer for the Blue and White, they are the face of Ateneo basketball.
However, hidden within the Ateneo campus is another unit bound together by their love of the game: Team Glory Be.
Known to most of the Ateneo community simply as “Team B,” this squad is full of talent and fueled by the same dedication displayed by the Blue Eagles.
According to former Ateneo Blue Eagle and current Team B head coach Yuri Escueta (AB IS ’08), the team got its nickname from a former Team B player, Mark Badua. As Escueta recalls, “Team A has always been called the ‘Hail Mary Team’ so [Badua] named us ‘Glory Be’ since we were known as Team B.”
Escueta says that, while they partake in their own set of tournaments, the main purpose of the team is to serve as the training pool for the UAAP team. It provides a venue for the Team B players to continue improving their craft in hopes of eventually cracking into the roster of Team A.
Escueta himself was one of those players who successfully made the jump from the reserve force to the UAAP team. He played for Team B for two years before he moved over. According to him, this experience is something he makes sure his own players learn from. “This is how we coach: Sharing the experiences that we’ve had as players and from the coaches that have handled us,” Escueta says, also referring to Team B’s assistant coach, Bacon Austria.
Austria was a member of four UAAP championship teams from 2008 to 2011 and now serves as an assistant coach for the Loyola Schools’ Team B as well as the Blue Eaglets of the Ateneo High School.
Team B Captain Joma Adornado, son of three-time Philippine Basketball Association Most Valuable Player William “Bogs” Adornado, says, “In the four years I’ve played for Team B, I’ve experienced new rookies, people graduating, [and] even a change in the coaching staff.”
However, he adds that, despite such changes, there are two factors that are always present.
“The competitiveness and talent that Team B produces remains constant. Whatever changes [have] occurred, the team immediately adapts. Each year I see constant improvement with each player, not just talent wise but also as a person.”
While such competitive spirit is team-wide, the development and growth of the individual players is not.
“With recruits that want to play for Team A, the development [among Team B players] is so individualistic that it has to come from themselves, if they want to improve or not,” says management senior Micco Sollano in a mix of English and Filipino. He adds that, “Development-wise, people need to do it on their own.”
Philosophy senior Rob Roa adds that the yearly addition of new players and recruits for the UAAP team pushes everyone to be the best player they can be. “It’s really fun ‘cause there’s always someone who’s pushing everyone. Everyone is competing for a spot. Everyone is trying to play,” he says.
Moreover, the competition may have just tightened: This year marks the first time that Ateneo has recruited foreign players to play for Team Glory Be. According to Escueta, this decision was made in the hopes that the Ateneo will be able to equal the imports of other schools for their UAAP teams.
As the UAAP’s new residency rule dictates that they will have to sit out the games for two years, these imports can now spend that time playing for Team B.
“It’s different,” Escueta muses, referring to having the imports on his team. “But [at] the same time also challenging, considering both Ikeh and Sega have been playing for only two years,” he says in a mix of English and Filipino.
Ikeh Chibueze and Ewenike Kingsley, both interdisciplinary studies freshmen, are Nigerian-born players who stand at 6’9” and 6’10”, respectively. They hope to reinforce the Blue Eagles come UAAP Season 78, but while serving their mandatory two-year residencies, both are in Team B to further hone their skills and adapt to the Philippine style of play.
“Even if this is the first time that they [have] played organized basketball and to play in a system… they bring so much to the court. They have the height to match up with the imports of the other teams, which equalizes things for us,” Escueta explains.
Similarly, this is what Blue Eagle Chris Newsome underwent when he spent his required residency years playing for Team B. It was there that he adjusted to the country’s style of play and reinvented his game to suit the needs of the Blue Eagles.
Controversial player Jerie Pingoy will also serve his two-year residency as a Team B member. He plans to further improve his game while on this team so that, by the time he is eligible to play, he will already be a much stronger player.
Successfully making the jump from Team B to Team A is a great feat. But since both teams practice together as one large team after their respective seasons, everybody is presented with the opportunity to make the leap before the next UAAP season.
“You need a bit of luck to get into Team A when opportunities arise,” Sollano says. “Injuries [of Team A players] are obviously bittersweet, because most likely when someone’s injured, he’s a friend of yours, but through that you will have a chance to make it to Team A.”
Escueta also says that for one player to make it to Team A, he must possess a particular skill that the team requires. “If you want a slot in Team A and you are in Team B, you would have to find a specific role that Team A needs and be good at it. Sometimes, these things are taken for granted but when you’re good at it, you will be noticed in Team A.”
The current lineup of the Blue Eagles features four players who successfully made the jump. They are Ivan Enriquez, Fran Asuncion, Earl Murphy and Vince Tolentino, all pesky and tough defenders who constantly put pressure on the ball.
Family and passion
Each player of Team Glory Be wakes at the break of dawn on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. They have just enough time to eat and take a quick shower before going off to practice. To meet the demands of this weighty commitment entails an enormous amount of discipline and dedication.
For most of the players on the team, that motivation stems from their desire to make it to Team A. However, there are those who must come to terms with the fact that they will not be able to make the jump.
Team B seniors Adornado, Sollano and Roa all agree that the reason they still continue playing is simply because of their love for the game. “Basketball has always been a love of mine. Nothing would mean more than to just keep playing until I can no longer,” Adornado says.
“There are little things that show you that this is worth it, I guess. The people here really just care about basketball. Most of us just want to play and I think that’s something you can take anywhere,” Roa says.