Olsen Racela and Jamike Jarin begin their coaching career in the men’s basketball tournament of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) as they lead perennial contenders Far Eastern University (FEU) and National University (NU), respectively, in Season 80.
Racela could not hide his excitement as this season marks his first coaching stint in the collegiate ranks after taking the reins left by his brother Nash, who led the Morayta-based squad to a UAAP crown in 2015.
“This is my coaching debut in college. I’m really excited to go up against all the other coaches. I’m hoping to learn a lot from them,” said the 46-year old Racela.
The former Philippine Basketball Association star expects veterans Ron Dennison, Axel Iñigo, Richard Escoto and Nigerian big man Prince Orizu to fill the shoes left by Raymar Jose, Monbert Arong and the Holmqvist brothers Ken and Steve.
Racela is also pinning his hopes on five incoming players from the host’s second team, as they look to add another trophy to their 20 titles, the most in league history.
“We’re a much smaller team this year. So, you can expect a quicker team compared to last year,” said Racela.
Jarin, meawhile, is not really new to mentoring college cagers as he towed San Beda College to the most recent championship in the National Collegiate Athletic Association during his two-year stay at the Red Lion’s den.
The former Batang Gilas mentor promised a “very competitive” Bulldogs this year. Jarin looks to steer back the Sampaloc-based squad to the Final Four.
“We’re going to be very competitive coming into this season. We have a very young team. But we promise everybody that we’ll give our best,” said Jarin, who replaced veteran tactician Eric Altamirano.
“We are just going to compete and have fun for 40 minutes. If we get a chance to win, we’ll take it,” he added.
Jayjay Alejandro, Matt Salem and Adven Diputado together with Senegalese center Issa Gaye will banner the NU team, which is raring to improve its 5-9 win-loss record last season.