WITH Ateneo still in transition, coach Tab Baldwin is looking at second-year swingman Kai Ballungay to become one of the Blue Eagles' leaders in the coming season.

Speaking after a 73-56 romp over the University of the East Red Warriors last Wednesday in the Filoil EcoOil Preseason Cup, Baldwin said Ballungay needs to do more for a team that lost leaders Ange Kouame, BJ Andrade, and Dave Ildefonso from its title-winning UAAP core last season.

PHOTO: filoil preseason cup

"He has to [take on a bigger role]. Kai is a relatively quiet guy, so I think he wants his play to do a lot of the talking. But, we have to get him to be more vocal and he understands that," said Baldwin.

"He’s got a good basketball brain and he’s got a good background on the game. So naturally, we would like him to step up and assume more of a leadership role and someone that is going to be more productive," the Ateneo mentor added.

The Fil-Am forward averaged 10.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in roughly 22 minutes of play in his rookie season with the blue and white.

While the numbers are impressive, Ballungay himself acknowledges that he now has to step up on and off the court for the Blue Eagles to be successful in their title defense.

"We don’t have Ange, Dave, and BJ anymore. They were really our vocal leaders, so I accept the challenge and I’m making it my goal to be more outspoken," said the 21-year-old. "I just really want to do my best to push my teammates."

Baldwin also challenges the 6 foot 7 inch power forward to lead by example while sharing roles with rookie sensation Mason Amos.

"Just like what happens to most rookies, Mason’s going to have his ups and downs. So, Kai’s going to have to be a consistent performer."

Ateneo is struggling in the preseason, but Ballungay is showing he's capable of leading from the front, averaging a team-best 12.9 points while leading the Blue Eagles in scoring in four of their first seven games.

2023-06-08T08:09:13Z dg43tfdfdgfd