MANILA, Philippines — Under new head coach Nash Racela, one thing is apparent – Far Eastern University’s build up for the coming UAAP Season has been a big learning experience.
Racela, who plays a big part with perennial champion Talk ‘N Text in the PBA as assistant coach, is trying to impart a lesson to his players that it’s the simple things that make a team run like a well-oiled machine.
After three games into the FilOil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup, Racela has allowed his players to learn the ropes on their own inside the court as he takes pointers.
“Going into the FilOil [tournament], we don’t prepare how we will prepare in the UAAP [like thorough scouting reports]. Rather than focus on the opponents, sa team kami nakatutok,” said Racela, who replaced Bert Flores.
“Sometimes, pwede mo na gawan ng game plan but we hold back because, sa end naming coaches, we just want them to learn the fundamental stuff,” he added.
That has been the theme for the Tamaraws so far: back to basics. Starting with as simple as following instructions, making better decisions and trusting your teammates.
“Right now, the more important thing for us to see is that our players are capable following instructions,” said Racela.
And this goes beyond just the instructions being bellowed during the game. Like the decisions players make that mold their future.
“That’s been the problem of FEU since way back. Kaya sa end game nagkakaron ng struggle. As coaches, we just need to be patient,” Racela said. “Kaya nga kami sumali sa Filoil to improve.”
Sans a blue-chip recruit this season and with its core intact, FEU is virtually the same team — and that’s more than enough for Racela as he sly guards and skilled wings at his disposal.
“In terms of recruitment sa labas, we’re limited. But we’re happy with what we have,” said Racela.
The Tamaraws may be lacking upfront, but their backcourt led by RR Garcia and Terrence Romeo – regarded as two of the best guards in the collegiate ranks – still make them contenders.
But Garcia and Romeo – as good as they are – haven’t exactly been the league’s most effective one-two-punch. They’re good on their own, but questionable when together.
And that’s another concern Racela needs to address.
“Before we entered FEU, that’s one of the comments they had. That they can’t co-exist, na may conflict,” said Racela.
In the Tamaraws 64-67 setback over National University last Wednesday, though, Romeo and Garcia played at least 20 minutes together on the court.
Enough time for NU coach Eric Altamirano to take notice “that RR, Romeo they can coexist now. With the system, they compliment each other and it gives them a lot of space to do what they’re capable of doing.”
While Racela would like to believe these two guards could coexist harmoniously – he admits that it’s still a work in progress.
“Andun kami sa process of learning eh. Sharing the basketball is all about trust. That’s what we’re trying to teach them. Like Terrence, you need to trust your other teammates,” said Racela.
Romeo, who has a penchant for shooting at will, instead set up Carl Bryan Cruz, who then missed a potential go-ahead triple in the dwindling seconds.
They didn’t get the win, but Romeo — who finished with 25 points – showed signs of improvement which Racela commended.
“Inunahan ko na sya, pinalakpakaan ko sya because he made the right decision. Masaya kami kanina,” shared Racela.
“All in all we’re happy with what we’re seeing, they’re willing to adjust.”
And with just two months to go before another season of the UAAP opens, there are going to be a lot of adjustments for the Tamaraws, who have always been able to make a deep run.
And building that FEU team with character and commitment raring to go the distance is in another chapter of Racela’s lesson plan.