FEU program assured of continuity as it continues to scour provinces for players
The core of FEU's championship team all came from the provinces, with Mac Belo from Cotabato, Mike Tolomia from Zamboanga and Roger Pogoy from Cebu. Jerome Ascano

IT took a while to bear fruit again but Far Eastern University proved its talent identification system, much different from its powerhouse UAAP rivals, can be just as effective.

In winning the UAAP Season 78 basketball crown, the school's first in a decade, the Tamaraws paraded a squad bannered by recruits from the provinces, with just one player based in Metro Manila.

FEU athletic director Mark Molina said the Tamaraws victories in the UAAP and the National Collegiate Championship are proof that the arduous task of scouring the provinces for 'diamonds in the rough' is still effective.

Molina stressed FEU had to focus its recruitment elsewhere since most of the top talent in Metro Manila, more often than not, end up going to “high-profile” schools.

“We don’t look at the UAAP and the NCAA anymore because they will choose Ateneo or La Salle. Diyan naman sila usually pumupunta. So we go around," the FEU athletic director said.

But that doesn't mean the Tamaraws are left to settle for crumbs, with Molina pointing out that there is a lot of basketball talent outside Metro Manila if you have the patience to look for it.

“The Philippines will never run out of talented basketball players,” said Molina. “Hindi naman mauubusan ng player.”

The 2015 UAAP champions are living proof that the recruitment thrust works. Finals MVP Mac Belo was a recruit from Cotabato, Mike Tolomia is from Zamboanga while Finals hero Roger Pogoy is from Cebu.

Molina said FEU has over the years developed good relationships with schools in the provinces, making talent identification and recruitment easier.

FEU coaches also make it a point to go to the provinces to watch matches in the Palarong Pambansa and other regional meets, Molina added.

“We have developed relationships with coaches all over the country. Sa Cebu, marami. I think we have five or six players from Cebu. We are always there, our coaches always go there. In Zamboanga, meron din tayong contacts,” said Molina.

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“We always go to the Palarong Pambansa. Even before the Palaro, we go to regional tournaments like in Southern Tagalog, Bicol, Western Visayas, minsan Mindanao,” said Molina.

Long before FEU won the Season 78 title, the Tamaraws, aware that a change in the educational system to K-12 will dent the talent pool coming out of high school, already stepped up its search for talent in the provinces.

The result was a deep pool of players that are expected to be ready to replace Belo, Tolomia, Belo, and fellow graduating players Russel Escoto, Achie Inigo, and Alfrancis Tamsi.

“Because of the shift of the educational system to K-12, there will be less high school talents. Knowing that, the last two or three years, naghahanap na kami ng kapalit. They have been with us the last couple of years,” said Molina.

Molina said FEU has always believed in the talent from the countryside, as shown by the long list of former Tamaraws players who ended up having long careers in the PBA.

Players from the provinces, Molina added, also have the 'hunger' and determination to excel in the Big City. 

“Kapag galing probinsya, may gutom talaga eh. Then, when you provide them with proper training and facilities, they will succeed. Nakita naman nila na inaalagaan naman natin ‘yung mga players na pinapadala nila sa FEU. Wala naman tayong pinapabayaan,” said Molina.

“Maybe first or second yata ang FEU (in number of products in the PBA). The track record speaks for itself na, when you come to FEU, we will give you the opportunity to dream big,” said Molina.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @reubensports