Defending champion Far Eastern University (FEU) stays positive of its chances to defend its title in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 79 men’s basketball tournament.
FEU coach Nash Racela said that he is not bothered by the dire predictions for the Tamaraws.
“I believe life is respecting other people’s belief,” Racela told reporters at the Novotel Hotel in Quezon City on Tuesday. “I respect what they believe. FEU has always been under the radar. I don’t like that we’re the talk of the town or considered favorite. We just let our performance speak for ourselves.”
Racela lost six veteran players who already graduated namely Mac Belo, Roger Pogoy, Russel Escoto, Achie Iñigo, Francis Tamsi and Mike Tolomia. The six were instrumental in FEU’s victory against University of Santo Tomas in the best-of-three finals last season.
“To tell you honestly, we never talked about it (defending the title). We just want to focus on our improvement every game. We need to play our A-Game and we have to prepare each game,” he said.
“You will see the level of most performances after five games. Regardless of which team we play, Ateneo or La Salle, we just have to give our best. There’s no pressure on our part even though we’re the defending champion,” added Racela.
FEU will be relying on the 6’4 team captain Reymar Jose, Prince Orizu, Monbert Arong, Joe Allen Trinidad and Kevin Eboña. “Prince and the other big guys are improving under the guidance of coach Gilbert Lao and we’re confident they will improve more.”
FEU’s first game will be against De La Salle University on September 7 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
La Salle, on the other hand, is the overwhelming favorite this season because of the presence of the 6’8 Cameroonian Ben Mbala, Jason Perkins, Andrei Caracut, Prince Rivero and swingman Jeron Teng.
“If you make a survey, I think the runaway No. 1 seed is La Salle,” said Adamson University’s new coach Franz Pumaren, who once led La Salle to five titles. “I think in the first two to three playing dates, you will see the clear picture.”
Aldin Ayo, La Salle’s new head coach who led Letran to a National Collegiate Athletic Association title last year, said expectations would push them to do their best. “Every time we get pressured, it motivates us. It opens up opportunities. Wherever you go there’s pressure. It is inevitable.”
UAAP Season 79 will also feature ballroom dancing, sepak takraw and arnis as demonstration sports.