It’s the end of a decade! From Season 73 to Season 82, a lot of players have come and gone from the UAAP, players that dominated the court, changed the landscape of the league, fired up their teams or simply captured the hearts of fans. In this All-Decade Team series, we at HumbleBola highlight the athletes and coaches who have defined the 2010’s of UAAP basketball for their respective schools.
The FEU Tamaraws All Decade Team
C: Raymar Jose
The FEU Tamaraws have such a deep crop of players that it’s easy to forget just how good Raymar Jose was as a basketball player. He was never as memorable as the Mac Belos, Mike Tolomias, and even the Russel Escotos of the world. But taking a step back, we’re able to appreciate the contributions of Raymar even more.
If there’s one quality that made Jose such a valuable piece for FEU, it was his adaptability. He was never memorable because the way he played wasn’t eye-catching. He had a decent back to the basket game, while he used his heft well to grab rebounds. But don’t mistake lack of flash with lack of substance. During Season 78, when he was just a back-up to players like Prince Orizu and Russel Escoto, he still found a way to average 8.1 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game in just 21.2 minutes.
Jose ultimately broke out during Season 79, averaging 11.1 points per game and 11 rebounds per game en route to a Mythical Five selection. His old man game finally led to high level production and ultimately respect from PBA teams looking to draft him. While he lacked the length of Escoto or the natural athleticism and strength of Orizu, he gets this spot because he simply knew how to remain elite despite playing with other great players. Adaptability is an incredibly underrated asset of players and Jose showcased it best during his time with FEU.
F: Aldrech Ramos
Because of how good the FEU program continues to be, it’s easy to forget the contributions of ts players during the beginning of the decade. A stern reminder: Aldrech Ramos, despite missing out on a ring during Seasons 73 and 74, was a DAMN GOOD player for the FEU Tamaraws. You could even make an argument he’s probably the best player in this All Decade Team.
Ramos was a stretch four before stretch fours were even cool. Whatever he lacked in physical strength, he made up for by often being the best offensive player on the floor. He punked opposing big men with a post repertoire that was simply but effective, and a stroke so smooth you’d think it was lathered with baby lotion. He was one of the pioneer Gilas Pilipinas players for a reason.
Granted, him failing to win a ring with the teams he led does stick out like a sore thumb. But we simply cannot deny just how good Aldrech was as a player for the FEU Tamaraws. He was quiet and unimposing, but he was damn dominant in his own special way.
F: Mac Belo
If there’s a player who perfectly embodied what it meant to be an FEU Tamaraw during this era, it’s probably Mac Belo. FEU got talent not by recruiting blue-chips in Metro Manila, but by getting players from the provinces, then developing them for the long run. Belo was called up from Cotabato, then he developed into a national team piece, and most importantly, a champion.
Players often credited Belo for being one of the nicest players in the UAAP. But on the court, his actions were anything but nice. He was a very effective forward who gave opposing defenses trouble with his wide skillset. His natural physical strength was also an asset, as he constantly overpowered larger big men for rebounds and baskets in the paint.
Of course, we can’t talk about Belo with mentioning his penchant for playing big in the most crucial of moments. The Shot versus La Salle. The Putback versus Ateneo. His series-long brilliance against UST. Mac Belo is many things, but the quality that will forever stick when talking about him, is how he ended his career as a winner.
G: Terrence Romeo
He came into collegiate basketball with plenty of hype as a scoring machine and he exited it as one of the most polarizing figures of this decade. A lot of the naysayers criticized his tendency to ball-hog and his seemingly growing showbiz persona. Those are all valid criticisms, but here’s one thing no one can takeaway from him: his greatness as a basketball player.
Romeo could simply score with the best of them. This was most evident during his final season with the Tamaraws, when he averaged 22.2 points along with winning MVP honors over the likes of Bobby Ray Parks and Jeron Teng. There were few holes to the way he scored as he had an elite pull-up game as well as a finishing package which complemented his ability to zigzag his way to the rim.
Maybe he could have been better in setting up his team’s offense. Maybe. But we simply cannot deny the greatness Romeo brought to the UAAP, albeit in a package that may have been too colorful for others to embrace.
G: RR Garcia
This spot was tough to decide on given all of the options FEU presented in the guard spot. But at the end of the day, RR Garcia was chosen because of one simple fact: MVP.
In case you forgot: RR Garcia won an MVP during his very first year in the UAAP! While he technically wasn’t a rookie because he sat out one year before playing, to win the league’s most prestigious individual award in such a short amount of time deserves plenty of props. To do that in a team with players like Aldrech Ramos and Reil Cervantes makes it much more deserving of appreciation.
While Garcia’s career didn’t end the way others wanted it to (with a ring of course!), he was still very effective even with his teammate Romeo rising above the ranks. That in itself, along with his hardware, gave him the nod for this spot in FEU’s All Decade Team.
6th Man: Mike Tolomia
Tolomia was a tough cut in the starting five given all his contributions to the program, but he gets his due credit as a sixth man for the ADT of the Tamaraws. He was never as dominant as Romeo nor did he get the individual accolades of Garcia, but he does have one thing neither of those players have; a championship ring.
His one-two punch with Mac Belo was probably the deadliest blend of silence off the court and lethal play on it during their era. Tolomia never had a problem taking a backseat to the brilliant Belo, but whenever FEU needed someone to takeover and create, Tolomia was always willing to take on the job. The beauty to Tolomia’s work; he never needed to talk unnecessarily to get buckets. He simply let his game do the talking.
Tolomia was never your typical, dominant point guard, but neither was he ineffective. In fact, you could even make an argument he was the most steady among FEU’s legendary list of guards this decade. He never made it to the Mythical Five nor was he ever recognized as a franchise-level player. But the title he does have that other FEU point guards don’t have: champion.
Head Coach: Nash Racela
It’s difficult to believe that a program as successful as FEU has had four different head coaches throughout this decade alone. Nash Racela stood out among the rest because aside from bringing home a championship, he was also able to lay down the foundation that his brother Olsen is going to be working with for the 2020s.
Here’s a fact that’s probably not talked about enough: FEU actually had a year when they missed the Final Four! During Season 75, they struggled and missed the playoffs. Enter Nash Racela who revitalized the program and brought them to back to back Finals after his first year in Season 76.
The effect of Nash’s handling of the program continues to be felt even today. The patient development of players. The dribble drive offense that isn’t stagnant but instead free-flowing. Most importantly, the bravery and defiance of the norm in college basketball. It’s because of these things that made Nash an easy choice for Coach of the Decade for FEU.