Defending champion Far Eastern University (FEU) will begin its title-retention bid when it faces De La Salle University in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 79 men’s basketball tournament today at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The Tamaraws will take on the Green Archers at 4 p.m. after the opening 2 p.m. game between the University of the East (UE) Red Warriors and the 2014 UAAP champions National University (NU) Bulldogs.
FEU coach Nash Racela believes that the Tamaraws should exploit La Salle’s weakness to start the season with a win.
“Every team has its own weakness. I’m confident they (La Salle) are beatable. They are considered by many as this year’s title contender but I still believe my players will give their best,” Racela told The Manila Times in a phone interview on Tuesday.
FEU beat University of Santo Tomas 2-1 in the best-of-three finals last year behind the combined effort of Mac Belo, Mike Tolomia and Roger Pogoy. But the three have already graduated.
“It will be a tough game knowing La Salle has improved more,” he added. “So far, we prepared very well before the season started last week. Offensively and defensively, we have a system to follow. I’m optimistic of our chances though.”
The 6’4 team captain Reymar Jose, Prince Orizu, Monbert Arong, Joe Allen Trinidad and Kevin Eboña will lead FEU’s campaign this season.
La Salle’s new head coach Aldin Ayo said that his wards are excited to play their first game. Ayo led Colegio de San Juan de Letran to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Season 91 men’s basketball title last year. He was commissioned to become La Salle’s coach last December.
“Everybody prepared hard that’s why they’re all excited to play and win the opening game. It is going to be a different De La Salle University team this year. But we’re not underestimating them (FEU). We are focusing more on our defense,” Ayo told The Times.
La Salle will be parading a solid frontline headed by 6’4 veteran forward Jason Perkins and the 6’8 rookie Ben Mbala together with Jeron Teng, Andrei Caracut, Thomas Torres, Prince Rivero and Julian Sargent.
“La Salle will be much alike Letran last year. More of a defensive team,” he added.
“We will do what we suppose to do. NU has a good frontline and backcourt combinations. We need to execute good defensive schemes against them,” said UE, coach Derrick Pumaren.
The Red Warriors will be relying on Paul Varilla, Edison Batiller, John Jordan Sta. Ana, Nick Abanto, Bonbon Batiller and Clark Derige
The Bulldogs, under coach Eric Altamirano, will bank on JJ Alejandro, Jeoffrey Javillonar and guard Jess Dipotado.