FAR Eastern University is confident it can remain competitive for next season despite losing six players from their championship squad in UAAP Season 78.
Athletic director Mark Molina said FEU has 10 to 12 players in the training pool who should be “UAAP-ready” come Season 79 and they hope to make up for the loss of Finals MVP Mac Belo, Mike Tolomia, and Roger Pogoy.
Aside from their version of the ‘Big Three,’ the Tamaraws will no longer have Russel Escoto, Alfrancis Tamsi, and Achie Inigo in the lineup by next year.
“Medyo mabigat kasi halos first five ang mawawala sa amin. But si Coach Nash (Racela), meron siyang system that is not dependent on one player, may ball movement, and we use the bench extensively,” said Molina, noting former Adamson cager and Achie’s younger brother Axel and two Filipino-New Zealanders are among those in the training pool who are ready to step up.
"We have a group of talented players in Team B that we feel na puwede silang palitan."
FEU ended a 10-year title drought last week when the Tamaraws upended University of Santo Tomas in three thrilling games to annex its 20th championship in UAAP basketball.
Molina, however, said it will also be difficult for FEU to regain the title next year, mentioning La Salle, with its intact lineup and the arrival of new coach Aldin Ayo, as one of the teams to beat in Season 79.
“It will be hard (to defend the crown) because the main core of the team that went to the finals the last two years, mauubos,” said Molina.
In preparation for next season, FEU, being the UAAP champions, will see action in the Philippine Collegiate Champions League (PCCL) where six players from Team B will join the 10 UAAP team members for the tournament.
Several FEU veterans will also play for Phoenix Petroleum in the PBA D-League Foundation Cup set to begin next month.