FAR Eastern University coach Nash Racela sees De La Salle as the next dominant team in the UAAP, capable of following in the footsteps of longtime rival and five-time champion Ateneo.
“La Salle is the new Ateneo,” said Racela, comparing the Green Archers to the Blue Eagles team that reigned in the league from 2008 to 2012 under coach Norman Black and powered by such stalwarts as seven-footer Greg Slaughter, Nico Salva, and former MVP Rabeh Al-Hussaini, among others.
“Hindi ko alam kung paano i-explain, but they can really dominate,” Racela said during Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at Shakey’s Malate. "They have the potential to do that (win championships).”
La Salle coach Juno Sauler was at a loss for words when asked about Racela's opinion on his young team.
“I don’t know what to say,” said the soft-spoken Green Archers mentor who sat next to Racela at the presidential table.
Racela’s description of this batch of Archers came on the heels of his Tamaraws’ 69-74 loss to the same team on Saturday night in their playoff for the No. 2 seeding and twice-to-beat advantage in the men’s Final Four.
The setback moved FEU on the brink of elimination as it faces a must-win situation against the streaking Archers in their Final Four match-up on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
But Racela made it clear the Tamaraws won’t go down without a fight in their 4 p.m. encounter.
“I’m not saying that they are not beatable. It depends on the other coaches. But they have a potential to do that,” Racela said.
“But as a coach, I can’t accept lang na ganun,” he added.
Racela said FEU will have to overcome La Salle’s height advantage behind Jason Perkins, Arnold Van Opstal, and Norbert Torres in order to force a decider that has been slated – if necessary - on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“I think if you base it on the first three games, binu-bully kami ng La Salle inside. They have the advantage, man for man. But we just have to play above it,” said the FEU coach.