NASH Racela and Aldin Ayo shared Coach of the Year honors during the Collegiate Basketball Awards organized by the UAAP-NCAA Press Corps on Tuesday night then exchanged praises for each other, months before their looming rivalry in the UAAP basketball wars.
Racela and Ayo were honored as the best collegiate coaches of 2015 after guiding Far Eastern University and Letran to the UAAP and NCAA titles, respectively.
But the two mentors are set on a collision course late this year after Ayo accepted an offer to coach the De La Salle Green Archers in the UAAP, where both La Salle and defending champ FEU are pegged as the early favorites to win it all.
When reporters asked about their match-up in the UAAP, both coaches were quick to laud the strengths of their respective rivals.
“Malakas ‘yun kasi si coach Glen (Capacio), galing dun, alam niya ‘yung kultura ng FEU,” said Ayo, who had former FEU coach Capacio as part of his staff in Letran as consultant.
Ayo also bared that the former FEU mentor shared to him how the Tamaraws always have a deep pool in their roster that could be part of the UAAP anytime.
“Ang FEU naman, may mga Team B ‘yan na kahit may ka-puwestuhan sa Team A, kahit puwede na sa UAAP, hindi pa nila pinapasok sa Team A. Pag nakapasok na sa Team A, hinog na hinog na. So malakas pa rin sila,” said Ayo.
Racela, however, played down Ayo’s statements, saying that La Salle is the team to beat next season.
“La Salle is the strongest team next year,” said Racela. “You can’t base everything on the previous year.”
Racela noted that with the entry of Cameroonian import Ben Mbala to the same core the Green Archers had last season just made La Salle more formidable and favored to come out on top in the UAAP.
“They have the most intact lineup for next year. They have a really good import coming in and they have recruits for next year. They also have the experience factor,” added Racela.