Ateneo beefs up roster by adding Fil-Am guard Paul Garcia

Paul Garcia is Ateneo’s newest addition. (ABS-CBN photo)

By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña

The Ateneo Blue Eagles’ off-season recruitment campaign officially kicked off after landing six-foot Filipino-American guard Paul Garcia from Salisbury University in Maryland.

After failing to clinch a historic UAAP men’s tertiary basketball four-peat championship last Season 84 when they lost against the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons in the best-of-three grand finals, the Blue Eagles are back in the hunt to reclaim hoops glory.

The acquisition of Garcia will also start their guard rotation rebuild after the departure of SJ Belangel, Tyler Tio, and Gian Mamuyac.

“This is a very significant signing for us in light of what has happened last year with our graduations and the unexpected exodus of SJ Belangel. We have a lot of confidence in Forthsky Padrigao, but it’s a big load to carry for a sophomore,” said Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin.

Garcia balled out in his last playing season with Salisbury and averaged 8.6 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 0.8 steals per game while shooting an impressive 48% from three-point range.

The Fil-Am guard is expected to enroll in a Master’s degree in Ateneo and will be immediately available for the upcoming season.

Once formally enrolled in Ateneo, Garcia will have two full eligible playing years and will team up with reigning UAAP MVP Ange Kouame, star gunner Dave Ildefonso, and emerging shooting guard Chris Koon.

Garcia once played in the Philippines during the national finals of the National Basketball Training Center (NBTC) under the Fil-Am Sports USA and backstopped another Fil-Am superstar and now NBA baller Jalen Green in the team.

“Paul is not just a very dynamic point guard. A very well-rounded guard who can score and play the off-guard position as well, but he has a lot of maturity and experience being a guy who comes in as a college graduate,” added coach Baldwin.