Michael Asoro, Tab Baldwin, Raffy Celis
High school basketball stars Raffy Celis (left) and Michael Asoro (right) alongside Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles head coach Tab Baldwin (center). SHS-ADC Press Release


  • The ADMU Blue Eagles have secured the commitment of high school stars Raffy Celis and Michael Asoro
  • Blue Eagles head coach Tab Baldwin reveals how difficult recruitment is for his staff
  • Their high school teammate, Jared Bahay, will be an opponent at the senior level

Basketball remains the dominant sport in the Philippines, and its citizens have two leagues to take note of when it comes to the college levels: its own branch of the NCAA and the University Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP).

When it comes to basketball, the competition among the eight different UAAP schools in particular is considered by many as the best in the country as it has produced talents who have been recruited to play abroad.

Recently, there has been a bidding war of sorts for the next great pool of players as the different universities go out of their way to secure the commitments of the different top high school players throughout the country.

UAAP Season 85 basketball champions Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eagles have also secured their own future as they were able to get the commitment of two local high school stars from their sister school down in Mandaue City, Cebu.

The International Business Times was invited to a press conference where Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu's (SHS-ADC) Raffy Celis and Michael Asoro affirmed their commitment to ADMU's basketball program this past Monday, April 10

Ateneo Blue Eagles head coach Tab Baldwin was also present.

Celis, a six-foot-3 wing who was ranked the 21st-best high school player by the National Basketball Training Center (NBTC), showed up big time during the 2023 Smart-NBTC National Finals as he averaged 17.3 points, 10 boards, and a steal.

"I really wanted to go to Ateneo [de Manila] not only for basketball reasons, but also because I know I can learn a lot about life while also being under the guidance of Coach Tab [Baldwin]," Celis said.

On the other hand, the six-foot Asoro is as deadly a marksman as they come with 17.8 markers on three triples per game, 3.3 boards, and 1.8 assists in the same tournament Celis participated in.

The Blue Eagles are looking towards a future without the services of big-name stars like Ange Kouame, Dave Ildefonso and sharpshooter BJ Andrade as they have all exhausted their years of eligibility.

The addition of Celis and Asoro is a great start to ensure their continued success on the hardwood, and Baldwin cited how his two newest wards fit right into their culture.

"One of the limitations that we face as the Ateneo coaching staff is our ability to recruit players, which is affected by the academic process. We can confidently say that both of these guys possess the academic ability to be part of Ateneo," Baldwin said during the press conference.

"I would like to thank Sacred Heart School for everything you've done to bring these two young men to this point. We are very proud that they will be part of our program."

For those not in the know, ADMU's recruitment efforts is a unique one as they promote the lifestyle of a student-athlete where the coaching staffs of the many different sports they compete in take into account how their players perform in the classroom and not just on the court or on the field.

Any student-athlete who fails to meet the university's academic standards are subject to losing a season of their college eligibility.

In one of many such cases throughout the school's history, eventual three-time Finals MVP Thirdy Ravena was suspended from playing in his second season due to academic deficiencies.

While it may be unfair for some, ADMU's no-nonsense approach to holistic development is an interesting one as it ensures that student-athletes succeed both in their amateur careers and as a student.

For added context, Celis and Asoro's commitment to play for the Blue Eagles comes two weeks after high school teammate Jared Bahay decided to take his talents to their crosstown rival: the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons.

Celis and Asoro will be joining a Blue Eagles squad that will now be led by Kai Ballungay and Chris Koon alongside Season 86 newcomers Mason Amos and Kyle Gamber.

Raffy Celis, Tab Baldwin, Michael Asoro
From L-R: Raffy Celis, Tab Baldwin, Michael Asoro SHS-ADC Press Release