[Here's the first installement of our eight-part preview for UAAP Season 79]
Season 78 review: 11-3 in the eliminations, beat Ateneo in the Final Four, won title over University of Santo Tomas in finals
Key losses: Mac Belo, Mike Tolomia, RR Pogoy, Russel Escoto, Achie Inigo, Alfrancis Tamsi
Key holdovers: Raymar Jose, Monbert Arong, Prince Orizu, Ken Holmqvist, Ron Dennison, Allen Trinidad
A YOUNG core takes over at Far Eastern University in its bid to claim back-to-back men's basketball titles in the UAAP.
The core of the Tamaraws squad that lifted the squad to the UAAP crown last year is no longer with the team with Mac Belo, Mike Tolomia, RR Pogoy, Russel Escoto, Achie Inigo, and Alfrancis Tamsi among the players who are no longer with FEU this season.
“After the group of Belo, Tolomia, and company, we have a young and inexperienced team,” FEU coach Nash Racela admitted.
But despite having a vastly different lineup from last season, the Tamaraws reached the quarterfinals of the Filoil preseason before bowing to eventual champion La Salle.
However, Racela pointed out that a repeat this season will be a daunting task considering the upgrade of all the teams, led by La Salle and National University.
“Based on what we saw sa preseason, mukhang laban laban na kaming anim na schools sa final two spots. Free for all because everybody has been improving,” said Racela.
Plus, the players who will take over this season are either role players in their title run last year or part of their Team B.
FEU big man Raymar Jose takes on the team captain duties for the Tamaraws in Season 79 and will be relied upon for his rebounding and defense.
“Ang focus niya pa rin is what he does best, and at the same time, we expanded his responsibilities. He is no longer a 5 guy. He also has a responsibility sa 4 spot. And siyempre, we expect his leadership being the most senior sa grupo,” said Racela.
Also part of the holdovers from last year’s title run are Ken Holmqvist, who suited up for Gilas Pilipinas in the Seaba Cup last summer. Prince Orizu, Monbert Arong, Prince Orizu, Richard Escoto, Ron Dennison, and Allen Trinidad round out the FEU core for this season.
After transferring from Adamson, Axel Inigo, Achie’s brother, is now eligible to play for FEU while Fil-Kiwis Joseph Nunag and Kenneth Tuffin have also joined the Team A squad.
Racela said he is happy with how the players have adjusted to having an increased role in the team, with big shoes to fill following the loss of their championship-winning core.
“It’s still far from where we want to be but I’m happy with all the developments and improvements over the past few months,” said Racela.