Another Nieto will once again don the blue and white of Ateneo de Manila University.
Lebron Nieto will remain with the Blue Eagles program as he has formally committed to the Katipunan school.
Though glad that the team has accepted him, Nieto stresses that it's one thing to be an Atenean but he still has to earn being a Blue Eagle.
“Growing up, I always watched my brothers (Matt and Mike) play for the Blue and White in the UAAP, so it was a big dream of mine to play and win for Ateneo as well,” Lebron said.
“But to people saying that it was my destiny to be a Blue Eagle, I understand that many were expecting me to become a Blue Eagle, but to me, being a Blue Eagle is something that is earned – one that I worked hard for every day.
“So, I am very happy that I have been given the opportunity to play for the Blue and White, just like my father (Jet), brothers, and sister (Shawntel) did. Nothing was given easily, and I worked hard to showcase that I, too, can become a Blue Eagle and hopefully bring glory to Ateneo in the same way they did,” continued the Ateneo High School standout.
Lebron will be the fifth Nieto to play for the Blue Eagles.
Dr. Jet was part of the Ateneo team that won back-to-back UAAP men's basketball crowns from Seasons 50-51 while twins Matt and Mike had huge roles during the school's three-peat from Season 80-82.
Meanwhile, Shawntel was part of the Ateneo women's badminton team that notched a back-to-back from Seasons 75-76.
“We are really pleased to bring Lebron into the team and obviously, he comes from a great pedigree with older brothers Matt and Mike being great servants to our program and done such a great job and now, they have moved on to the pros,” said Blue Eagles head coach Tab Baldwin.
“Just the fact that we have another Nieto in the squad is exciting for all the coaches and he has done a great job in training so far,” the American-Kiwi mentor continued.
“My parents and all my siblings support me throughout and provide me with advice that I use to get better. We carry no rivalries within the family. Instead, we build each other up and ensure that we use each other's strengths to support each other in achieving our dreams and goals,” shared Lebron.
“Through their own crafts, they left their marks, and I am determined to work and play hard not necessarily just to 'leave my own mark, too' but instead, to be the best student-athlete I could be for the greater glory of the team, Ateneo, and God. My focus is on our team and on winning the UAAP championship. Whatever else comes is a bonus,” he added.
In his senior year with Ateneo High, Lebron averaged 16.46 points, 4.85 rebounds, 4.69 assists, and 2.85 steals per contest, earning him the no. 12 ranking in the NBTC 24 rankings.
The 18-year-old native of Cainta, Rizal was also the captain of the Gilas Boys team that competed in the 2022 FIBA U16 Asian Championship.
Besides his offensive prowess, what surprised Baldwin with regard to Lebron's game is his defensive tenacity — a Nieto trademark.
“I think that he is a guard that brings some serious offensive skill — he is an excellent shooter of the ball and handles the ball well. But what we really like — and what surprised us a little bit — is his aggressiveness and toughness on the defense. I guess being a Nieto, that shouldn't be a big surprise,” said Baldwin.
Lebron will be eligible to play for the Blue Eagles starting UAAP Season 86. But he knows there's still a lot of work to be done from now until tip-off.
“Being in the best program in the Philippine collegiate basketball scene, I want to absorb all the knowledge that Coach Tab and the entire coaching staff will impart to us,” said Lebron, the youngest of the Nieto siblings.
“We are excited to have Lebron on the team and we think he has a bright future but there is an awful lot of work just like there is with any incoming freshman. He is enthusiastic and a hardworking kid. I think the future looks bright for Lebron and we look forward to a tough kid and a long and successful relationship with another Nieto in the Blue Eagle family,” added Baldwin.
He joins Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu's Raffy Celis and Michael Asoro as Eagles who have opted to remain in the Ateneo system/ Gilas Youth standouts Mason Amos and Kyle Gamber are also part of Ateneo's recruitment class for 2023.
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