UAAP Post-2000 Series: Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles Starting 5

23-metre buzzer beater from USA’s Matt Millett at Special Olympics

THE UAAP is arguably the most popular and prestigious collegiate league in the country today. Thanks to strong alumni support, strategic television deals, and committed basketball programs, the UAAP has really elevated itself above other collegiate competitions – particularly since the turn of the millennium.

To commemorate the league’s success since then, we at FOX Sports decided to come up with each school’s post-2000 “all-time” starting five.

Let’s start with the Ateneo Blue Eagles.

The Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles has been the most successful UAAP basketball program since the turn of the millennium, having won seven out of the 17 total possible titles since 2000. With all that success, it is only natural that they have also produced some of the greatest players that the UAAP had seen. Let us take a look at the best player from each position that have donned the blue and white from 2000 to 2017*:

L.A. Tenorio (PG)

There have been tons of quality point guards for Ateneo since 2000. Yet, for all their success, the Blue Eagles have only really produced one star point guard, and that is L.A. Tenorio. With two Mythical  Five selections, three Finals appearances, and one championship under his belt, Tenorio is a lock for this spot.

The diminutive point guard was known for his steady ball handling, heady play making, and clutch shooting. He didn’t allow his size to stop him from excelling in a sport typically dominated by big men. Tenorio truly embobied Ateneo’s “one big fight” mantra

Kiefer Ravena (SG)

Despite some strong contenders, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Kiefer Ravena is this team’s starting two guard. Ravena finished his decorated UAAP career with a Rookie of the Year, three Mythical Five selections, two MVPs, two Finals appearances, and two championships.

The Phenom was one of the best scorers the UAAP had ever seen. He was also an underrated play maker (he actually led the league in assists in his last two seasons) and defender in college. Many  lauded him for his high basketball IQ, which he used to manipulate opponents to his whims. Ravena isn’t just the best shooting guard for the Blue Eagles since 2000, he is also arguably the best Ateneo player, period.

JC Intal (SF)

The small forward spot came down to Wesley Gonzales, Larry Fonacier, and JC Intal. All three were part of the Blue Eagles’ 2002 championship team, but Intal was only a rookie, while Fonacier and Gonzales were co-Finals MVPs. Nonetheless, I ultimately selected Intal because he was tasked to be the true leader of the Blue Eagles in his final playing year – something Gonzales was never asked to do, and something Fonacier didn’t get the opportunity to (he injured his ACL four games into his final playing year). Intal was also selected as a member of the Mythical Five in his final season —  again, something neither Gonzales nor Fonacier accomplished in the UAAP.

The 6’4 forward entered the UAAP as a very raw prospect, but eventually put it all together in his final playing year. He had the height, the length, the athleticism, and the skills of a superstar. He even started developing a jump shot in his final year. If only he could have those missed shots in the fourth quarter and overtime of Game 3 of the 2006 finals back.

Rich Alvarez (PF)

Rich Alvarez had the privilege of being the UAAP’s first MVP of the new millennium as he won the award in 2000. He won it again in 2001. He was also a member of the memorable Season 65 championship team, which ended Ateneo’s 14-year title drought.

Although he wasn’t the most skilled player, the Japan-born Alvarez used his unmatched hustle and athleticism to dominate the UAAP. He was known for his high-flying dunks, game changing blocks, and tenacious rebounding.

Enrico Villanueva/Rabeh Al-Hussaini (C)

Ok, I cheated. I couldn’t really decide between the two most dominant big men for the Blue Eagles in recent history, so I will just let whoever reads this decide for themselves.

Although he started his UAAP career in 1998, Enrico Villanueva won his sole MVP and championship for Ateneo in 2002. Ateneo is now known for producing quality big men, and Villanueva was its pioneer big man of the new millennium.

The burly big man was a true force inside the paint for the Blue Eagles. He used his brute strength and athleticism to overpower his opponents, but he could also finish below the rim and find open teammates when necessary. Most of the time, it actually seemed like only Villanueva could stop himself during games as the 6’5 center had the tendency to get into foul trouble or unnecessary altercations.

Enrico Villanueva is undoubtedly closer to the Ateneo community due to being a product of the high school program, but I am actually willing to argue that Al-Hussaini was perhaps more dominant at his peak — and he had the individual accolades to back them up — two Mythical Five selections, one MVP, one Finals MVP, and two championships.

If Villanueva was Ateneo’s pioneer big man, then Al-Hussaini essentially became the cornerstone up front in  the Blue Eagles’  dynasty from out of nowhere. The Fil-Kuwaiti was a seldom-used reserve who had the tendency to botch easy plays in his first three years. With the graduation of Ford Arao after Season 70, Al-Hussaini was inserted into the starting line up and began the “Rabeh-lation.” The 6’7 center unleashed a virtually complete offensive arsenal — an impressive array of post moves, deadly mid-range shooting, and uncanny drives to the basket — to lead the Blue Eagles to the first two of their five straight championships from 2008 to 2012.

Notable snubs: Chris Tiu (shooting guard), Wesley Gonzales (small forward), Larry Fonacier (small forward/shooting guard), Greg Slaughter (center), Nico Salva (power forward/small forward), Noy Baclao (power forward)

I only considered players who have finished their UAAP careers.