BEING champion in a preseason tournament isn’t a guarantee of being jitter-free on opening day.
University of the East expects to experience a bit of tightness when it debuts against Far Eastern University Saturday during the opener of the UAAP Season 76 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Warriors have been installed as one of the title contenders this year after coming off a remarkable pre-season campaign that saw them won the championship of the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup against National University.
Yet despite the title romp, coach Boycie Zamar believes it will still be anybody’s ballgame in the 2 p.m. match especially playing before a different atmosphere on opening day.
“Opening game ‘yan, meron talagang opening day jitters. Pipila ka papasok ng arena, maghihintay ka. Kahit beterano ka, tatamaan ka. Iba ang opening game,” said Zamar.
The Recto-based squad has vastly improved from their seventh place, 3-11 finish from last year following the marked improvement of Roi Sumang and his supporting cast, plus the entry of Sierra Leonean center Charles Mammie.
Nash Racela said he will have his hands full against UE in his UAAP debut after replacing Bert Flores as FEU head coach.
“Based on their (UE) performance sa Filoil, they are a better team this year,” Racela admitted. “My observation is Roi Sumang is surrounded with new players and they now have Mammie. They are a formidable team and definitely one of the contenders this season.”
“We are excited to play UE in the opening game,” he added.
Out to atone for missing the Final Four last season, the Tamaraws are again going to lean on their two-guard combo of RR Garcia and Terrence Romeo, although the team lost some ceiling with the season-ending ACL injury incurred by Russel Escoto.