FAR EASTERN UNIVERSITY TAMARAWS
A LOT OF PRESSURE WAS PLACED ON THE SHOULDERS OF THE FAR EASTERN UNIVERSITY MEN’S BASKETBALL TEAM DURING THE PAST TWO SEASONS IN THE UAAP. WITH SUCH HIGH EXPECTATIONS, THE TAMARAWS CRUMBLED AND COULD NEVER ACHIEVE THEIR ULTIMATE GOAL OF RECAPTURING THE
This season, a new approach will be implemented. Bert Flores, the head coach of the last FEU champion team in 2005, is back at the helm and all he wants for his players is something very simple: “ Ang importante, happy sila.”
Despite losing sharpshooter Paul Sanga and Reil Cervantes, who decided to forego his final year of eligibility in the UAAP to go pro, the Tamaraws still have a very talented and deep lineup.
“ Noongnag-championkamisa2005, malaking bagay yung rebounding at blocks. Nakikita ko kay Aldrech (Ramos) ‘yung rebounding ni Arwind (Santos). ‘Yung pamalit naman kay (Mark) Isip, itong si Pippo (Noundou),” said Flores, when asked if he saw any similarities between his 2005 team and the current roster.
Arwind Santos and Mark Isip were both named to the UAAP Mythical Five team in UAAP Season 68. Santos was also hailed as the Defensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player. Ramos already has two Mythical Five selections tucked under his belt. Noundou doesn’t need to win an award, but his team needs him to be more ferocious on the boards (only 5.6 RPG last season).
FEU possesses perhaps the most prolific backcourt in the league with last year’s Rookie of the Year, Terrence Romeo and reigning Most Valuable Player, RR Garcia. However, Flores says that the player in the starting unit that he has to give the most attention to is JR Cawaling.
“ Si Cawaling, kailangan ko maging leader.”
“Another Arwind si Russel Escoto,” added Flores. At 6’6”, the former FEU-FERN Baby Tamaraw and RP Under-18 player has a lot of potential. His length can bother all those who attack the ring and when their shots misfire, Mark Bringas will be ready to corral the loose ball. His brother Arvie could finally make his return to the UAAP since leaving DLSU.
Another interesting newcomer is Christian Sentcheu who hails from Douala, the largest city in Cameroon, Africa. He’s still very raw, but he’s 6’11” - a project to work on for the future.
Team Captain Jens Knuttel and defensive specialist Chris Exciminiano are back along with Carl Cruz, Jolas Guerrero and Gryann Mendoza.
Rounding out the Tamaraw’s bench is their most exciting rookie, Chris Tolomia, a teammate of Escoto’s in FEU-FERN. He specializes in attacking the basket. Expect him to help the veterans out in the scoring department.
“ Apatnataonakongnawalasa coaching,” admits Flores. So, he used the 2011 Fil-Oil Flying V Pre-season Premier Cup to reacquaint himself with the pressure moments the game of basketball entails.
A few noticeable changes on both ends of the floor is the emphasis Flores puts on getting the ball in the post area on offense and employing a full-court press on defense. The full-court press of course, is the more significant addition.
“ Mabibilis kami eh. Sina RR, Romeo, talagang dumedepensa’ yang mga‘yan. Nand’yan pa si Tolomia,” explains Flores.
The most important aspect of the game though that Coach Flores would like his team to develop is this:
“Communication. ‘Nung time nina Arwind, sina Rizada, isang kindatan lang kami, OK na eh.‘Yun sana ang gusto kong makuha nila.”
FEU was the number one scoring team in the UAAP last season averaging 75.4 PPG. Their ability to put the ball through the hoop can be sustained and even improved this UAAP Season 74 with a more experienced group of veterans and talented rookies like Tolomia and Escoto. Look out for Romeo (8.0 PPG last season) though. He admitted to having rookie jitters last year but has appeared to have shaken all of that nervousness off for good. If given the opportunity to take the gamewinning shot, Romeo will not hesitate.
High expectations translate to high pressure. That is why Coach Flores doesn’t want to place that burden on his players anymore this season.
“ Mag-Final Four lang kami OK na,” said a jolly Flores.
But, if they make it back to the UAAP Finals, the coach and the players will carry with them something they didn’t have last year: experience.