Matt Nieto's absence creates opportunity for Tyler Tio to step up

When Ateneo's Tyler Tio first started for the injured Matt Nieto last October 14 versus the UP Fighting Maroons, he produced solid numbers of 12 points and five assists in the Blue Eagles' 83-66 victory.

Back then, his mindset was simply to be "the next man up."

Two games later and with Nieto still sidelined, Tio took those words to heart as he put up a personal-best 16 points to help Ateneo with a 90-70 blowout over UE on Wednesday.

"I guess I'm just trying my best to just do my part. I'm not really trying to step out of my comfort zone and do extra," the second-year player humbly said about his latest breakout game. "I'm just trying to do what coach says -- run the plays, take care of the ball, and if the shot's there then I'm gonna take it. Thankfully, this game, they went in."

Two years ago, the former Xavier Golden Stallion was among the best players coming out of high school. A steady hand at the point guard position with a knack for putting the ball in the basket, there was certainly a level of expectation with his impending arrival in Ateneo. But his first-year was met with an unforeseen speed bump after failing to get all the necessary documents for his eligibility. He was forced to sit out one whole year and to wait for his time to come.

Fast-forward into his second playing year, Tio is finally hitting his stride in the league. However, it's not about the hype or getting the minutes. It's also not about the stats. And he may be slowly developing a consistent outside shot and a terrific passer, but it's his acceptance to his role in the team that makes Tio dependable.

"I don't really think about how big the role is, I'm just trying to do my job," he admitted.

The Blue Eagles, through their ball movement and consistent balanced scoring, have set the standard for team play in the league. This also means that anybody at any given game, can get minutes and produce results. Tio's "next man up" mentality is a byproduct of his team's belief and core system.

"I'm confident because even if I don't do my job, someone else will step up. At the same time, that motivates me to do my job also," he shared.

There's no timetable yet for Nieto's return. In the meantime, Tio is merely focused on doing his part and nothing more.

"Matt for me, is one of the best college point guards right now so I think it's gonna be a tough job to replace him and I don't think I can replace him, I'm just doing my job to be me, I'm not trying to be him," Tio said. "Matt brings a lot to the table, sometimes it doesn't show up on the stat sheet, that's the hardest to replace."

As the Blue Eagles continue their quest for another UAAP title, they remain as formidable as ever through their belief that anybody can contribute.

"It starts with the fact that every guy in the team has confidence that the next guy can step up," Tio said. "Obviously, we prepare hard, thankfully the chips fall into place during the game."