Top 8 Ateneo Blue Eagles of All Time
By Jon Rodriguez
The Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles climbed to second place in Season 79 of the UAAP without one true superstar, relying on solid team play and defensive efficiency. As the Final Four begins, let’s look back at some of the greatest players to don the blue and white.
Philippine basketball legend Francis Arnaiz will forever be known for his heroics as a member of the famed Toyota squad in the PBA, but his journey started in Ateneo in the late 60s. In his rookie year, he led the Blue Eagles to the NCAA championship, showing early signs of “Mr. Clutch.”
There were many heroes from Ateneo’s 2002 champion team, and none was bigger than Enrico Villanueva. The 6-foot-5 center commanded respect in the paint, and provided the much needed muscle to complement Larry Fonacier’s shooting, Rich Alvarez’s athleticism (more on him later) and LA Tenorio’s point guard wizardry. Aside from being La Salle’s–and Joseph Yeo’s–worst nightmare, he was also awarded MVP in that championship year.
Jun Reyes was not just “the brother of Chot Reyes” when he was playing for Ateneo in the 80s. Reyes was a two-time MVP during the school’s championship runs in 1988 and 1989. He was so good as the Blue Eagles’ court general that a future PBA legend, Olsen Racela, played as his backup.
If you look up the definition of “King Eagle,” you’d probably see a photo of Chris Tiu right next to it. Tiu exemplified everything right about being an outstanding student-athlete, leading his alma mater to a championship in 2008–the first of five straight titles. He was also named “favorite athlete” in the Nickelodeon Philippines Kids’ Choice Awards in 2008. Why? Because he’s Chris Tiu.
Together with Chris Tiu, season MVP Rabeh Al-Hussaini ended Ateneo’s six-year championship drought by defeating rivals La Salle in 2008. When Tiu left the following year, Al-Hussaini continued the winnings ways for one more title. He lost to Dylan Ababou in the MVP race that year, but he got himself something better: a Finals MVP award.
Danny Francisco, who was also a member of the successful Ateneo team from 1988 to 1989, did everything for the Blue Eagles. He could score from the outside and bang bodies in the inside. In one game against La Salle, the 6-foot-6 center grabbed 25 rebounds.
Rich Alvarez was the complete player for Ateneo. The 6-foot-4 forward had all the dunk highlights, but he also had a reliable midrange game and elite defense. He won back-to-back MVPs in 2000 and 2001, and was part of the 2002 championship squad that defeated La Salle in the finals.
Through impossible jumpers and hangtime layups, Kiefer Ravena earned the monicker “The Phenom” in Ateneo. Ravena played with so much composure and confidence, you’d think he was lightyears ahead of the competition. He delivered championship trophies to Katipunan in 2011 and 2012, and was deservedly crowned MVP in his final playing years in 2014 and 2015.
Who else should be on this list? Tell us about them below!