Ateneo’s Kai Ballungay still learning UAAP ropes despite career game

Kai Ballungay Ateneo UAAP

Ateneo forward Kai Ballungay shoots a jumper against Adamson in the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament. UAAP PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Kai Ballungay admitted he and his fellow Ateneo rookies are still learning the style of play in the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament.

The 6-foot-6 forward has been adapting well so far, unleashing a career-high 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting as Ateneo dominated Adamson, 76-55, on Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena.

But Ballungay stressed he remains a work in progress.

“It’s definitely a process. For me, Paul (Garcia) and Gab (Gomez), it’s something we had to really learn throughout the games. Like coach said, talent isn’t enough, we really had to match the physicality, the pace of the game, and it’s something we’re still learning,” said Ballungay after leading Ateneo’s bounce back from a tough overtime loss to University of the Philippines last Sunday.

“We just want to take away what we can take away from each game, and apply it to the upcoming games,” he added.

Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin is staying patient with the progress of Ballungay and other newcomers.

“It’s a process, and for each one, it’s different. I think everybody’s seeing that Paul’s maybe having a little bit tougher time, but we gotta remember that Paul didn’t get here until July. So his timetable is radically different than Kai’s or other guys you see out there. Gab Gomez now looks a lot more comfortable, but that’s because of the minutes he’s playing. Kai’s obviously playing minutes,” said Baldwin, whose team sits in third place with a 4-2 record.

The Kiwi-American coach believes in the talent of his young guns as they try to reclaim UAAP glory.

“It’s just a matter of experience. As I told the players, they have talent. They wouldn’t be recruited by Ateneo if they didn’t have talent. But they’re still young players, and their minds have to settle down, and they have to make the basketball cultural adjustments to UAAP basketball,” he said.

Ballungay, who averaged 10.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.0 steals in close to 20 minutes of action in his first five games, attributed his career game against Adamson to the whole team.

“It was definitely a big team win for us, especially bouncing back from Sunday’s loss. Just going into this game, we really wanted to control the tempo. It was our emphasis this whole week, just being able to control the pace of the game,” Ballungay said.

“I think we did a better job tonight, just really running our transition and finding the open guys. So I think that was big, and something that we wanna continue going to the next game.”

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