ARVIN Tolentino feels like a high schooler all over again as his UAAP debut for Far Eastern University looms closer and closer.
The 21-year-old Tolentino has been playing for the Tamaraws' Team B for nearly a year while undergoing residency after transferring from Ateneo last summer, but he knows it will be a different feeling once the collegiate season begins.
“Parang bumalik ako ng high school (at nung) first time ko sa UAAP,” said Tolentino. “Parang ganun ‘yung excitement ko. Parang first time uli.”
Tolentino was one of the most heavily recruited high schoolers in the summer of 2013 after winning Finals MVP honors with San Beda's high school team in the NCAA.
But it was went downhill for the 6-6 forward after winning Rookie of the Year honors with Ateneo in 2014, disappearing from the radar in his sophomore year with the Blue Eagles before problems with academics prompted the move to FEU.
Now he's out to prove himself all over again.
“Eto na ‘yung most awaited season ko,” Tolentino said. “Ito siguro ‘yung biggest season sa career ko sa UAAP. I want to prove, not just to me (but also) to my family, and to the basketball fans, na nandito pa rin ako, na nandun pa rin ang Arvin Tolentino.
“Wala akong sama ng loob,” said Tolentino when asked about the transfer to Ateneo. “Lumipat lang ako sa FEU, ‘yun lang. Magkakaibigan pa rin kami. I just want to prove myself, ‘yung worth ko as a player.”
Tolentino is expected to ease into a major role in an FEU team that lost Raymar Jose and Monbert Arong from the lineup that got as far as the UAAP Finals last season.'
But the transition has so far been easy, more so after Olsen Racela - Tolentino's coach in the Philippine youth team - took over the head-coaching job from brother Nash.
“Mabilis ‘yung adjustment kasi ‘yung pag-treat din sa akin ng teammates ko, super close na kami kahit ilang months pa lang kami ni Hubert (Cani) nagpa-practice. ’Yung bonding namin, matibay na. Isang pamilya na kami dito.
“In terms of system ni Coach O (Olsen Racela), naging coach ko siya for three years sa RP (team). Naging smooth lang sa akin ‘yung transition,” said Tolentino.
Unlike during his days at Ateneo where he played under the shadows of Kiefer Ravena, Tolentino said he is ready to shoulder bigger responsibilities with the Tamaraws.
“Tingin ko, medyo mabigat ng konti (‘yung role ko) as a veteran. Nung sa Ateneo, nandiyan si Kiefer (Ravena), Von (Pessumal), Fonzo (Gotladera)," he said.
Now, as an experienced player, I have to be vocal sa team. Gagawin ko lang ‘yung tama kasi I’m sure naglu-look up sila sa akin dahil marami kaming rookies at second-year players.”