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You are where you’re supposed to be

Words and photos by Aaron Vicencio

Coach Tab Baldwin shoots while the Ateneo Men’s Basketball team stretches for practice.

The Ateneo Blue Eagles penultimate practice is dead serious. No time wasted in trash talking, no time wasted in movement. Every effort is directed to winning and getting the job done.

Assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga

Under the watchful gaze of Coach Sandy, the team practices a three-man baseline action. Post player catches the ball just above the last hatch mark, one guard runs below, and the other offers a pick — and the player with the ball has to think. What options do WE have?

Mamuyac catches Mike Nieto looking the other way. Mamu reaches in and pokes the ball away.

Coach Sandy stops the drill, and asks — Mike, where are you? Mamu, where did you come from? The wiry guard points to his spot; and answers coyly, ball was open coach in Filipino.

Coach then asks them to repeat what happened. And explains what he saw. Mike, a screen was set here, Mamu ran from here. You are too close to the spot where the screen is supposed to happen.

Mike agrees, and they run it again. There was no disdain. No exasperation. But no detail lost in arguing. A circle of players form. Each player watching as if they were the ones in the play.

Coach Sandy: “We’re giving you space to think. We’re giving you space to decide. We’re giving you space to think of the options to succeed.”

“You are where you’re supposed to be. We’ve done this before. We’ve done the work.”

I wanted to say, might as well talk decision-making in life, coach.

On the next sequence, Coach Tab starts a baseline inbound drill. One side prepares to inbound, and another to defend.

Mike Nieto screams to one of his quick footed teammates, “wag mo naman kami pahiyain” — referring to SJ Belangel finding open spots within the defense. SJ smiles, and just continues to break the press.

Ange Kouame was particularly chatty — hitting threes and free throws more than the guards. He kept saying, all day baby. All day.

The whole practice proceeds as expected. A time for water, a time for drills, a time for scrimmage. The buzzer sounds, and the players just move where they’re supposed to be. They know, they move, they act.

Matt Nieto watches and directs from the top of the key

Practice was about to wind down when I see Matt stationary in the middle of the court. Pointing at the options, positions, and open spots. Hardly saying anything. The players know, the coaches know, how to think and move as a unit.

Matt Nieto knew. He knew he had to play better in Game 2. He knew that he had to be a better teammate, a better leader. He knew he had to be where he was supposed to be. And that’s all you can ask for.

— — — — — — —

Congratulations to the graduating seniors, Thirdy, Mike, Matt, Isaac, and Adrian. Thank you.




Documentary photography for Ateneo de Manila University

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Aaron R. Vicencio

Aaron R. Vicencio

Photography with space, landscape, and memory. Currently teaching at Ateneo de Manila University

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