The Ateneo Blue Eagles have more than enough reasons to be jubilant as the 75th Season of the University Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Men’s Basketball tournament reaches a thrilling finale. The team remains consistent in their performance and keeps a good grip at their lead in the team standings from day one, big thanks for the great contributions of the incomparable trio: Nico Salva, Keifer Ravena and Greg Slaughter.
Known in the collegiate basketball league as the triple threat, the formidable arsenal of the Blue Eagles has certainly set the bar for other players and teams to put on their A-game. The combined powers of UAAP Season 74 Finals MVP and Rookie of the Year alongside the tallest player in the league are quite extraordinary.
Yet, these young men remain level-headed in spite of the great compliments, which make them all the more admirable. According to the star players, being on top is not as easy as it seems. With a historic 5-peat championship on the line, they cannot afford to be caught off guard in every match.
“Our mindset is to do everything better,” Nico Salva states, “because when you’re top, everyone is gunning for you.”
The 7-foot Greg Slaughter could not agree more: “Winning four championships in a row commands respect, but that also means all the other teams are after us. That alone keeps us motivated.”
Ateneo’s young guns also admit to putting their hearts and minds in every game. Keifer Ravena, whose father is a former PBA star player, always keeps in mind what his dad taught him since he learned the basics of the game.
“My dad always tells me to respect the game no matter what team you’re in or who your opponent is. Mahirap kapag nagtampo ang basketball sa ‘yo,” Keifer Ravena muses.
As the intensity of the tournament builds up each passing week, Nico, Greg and Kiefer see to it that they also get to relax and take their mind off the game from time to time. Apart from clocking the mandatory 4 hours a week in the players’ study hall, they also hangout at Greenwich across their sprawling campus while munching on their favorite choice — the Greenwich Crispy Glazed Chicken.
Even the three athletes cannot escape the extraordinary goodness of Greenwich’s latest chicken offering. Extraordinarily juicy, extraordinarily crispy and bursting with flavor in every bite, the Crispy Glazed Chicken is wrapped in a lip-smacking sweet and mildly spicy glaze that lingers on the taste buds. It is the newest talk of the town that has captivated chicken lovers in the metro which includes Kiefer, who, by the way, can down quite a number of Crispy Glazed Chicken in one sitting. As the point-guard puts it, “It’s really delicious and the size is just right. Sulit na sulit.”
These bonding moments are something Nico Salva and Greg Slaughter will definitely miss since both are playing their last season for the Blue Eagles. Nico was part of the team’s 4-peat championship which started during his freshman year, and is very determined to earn his fifth win before he puts his Ateneo jersey aside – an extraordinary feat that no other UAAP player has done in the past.
While the professional league is within the horizon for Nico and Greg, both players do have some valuable insights to share with college basketball players who also wish to make it big in the league.
“You have to keep yourself on a steady level and not get caught up with emotions,” Greg points out, referring to the fact that some players have the tendency to be lax on their game once they start winning. “You always have to be ready for the next game,” he adds.
As for Kiefer Ravena, he is expected to lead the Blue Eagles in the coming years and the chances of winning more championships are far from the impossible. “We just need to be focused in our game,” he says. “We have a very supportive coaching staff for which we are very thankful. And with the Ateneo community and alumni behind us, it’s going to be One Big Fight!”