Looking back

Far Eastern University Tamaraws welcomed UAAP Season 76 with their King Tamaraws RR Garcia and Terrence Romeo despite rumors then that Garcia would not suit up and would enter the pros instead. Though there was not much expectation from the Tamaraws, they left their opponents in the dust, zooming to 7-0 record in the first round. With their wins coming either from convincing or come-from-behind ones, they looked like they were groomed for a Finals seat under their rookie head coach Nash Racela.

Their comfortable seat didn’t last long come second round when the tables were turned against them. After an unblemished first round, they stumbled to a 3-4 record in the second round, ending with a 10-4 win-loss card. Things turned for the worse when National University and De La Salle University also ended with identical record as theirs. The tied was settled with a virtual best-of-three against the Taft-based squad. Unluckily, FEU fell into the hands of La Salle, which later on went to capture the championship.

After the season was over, they were hailed as the Metro Manila champions of Philippine Collegiate Champions League and had a very good showing in Filoil Flying V Preseason Tournament over the summer with 7-0 record after the eliminations. Considering everything they have achieved without Romeo and Garcia, both are balling the professional league now, they seemed to have adjusted well to the changes and the loss of their main gunners. But would those things be enough for Season 77?

Acquisitions Holdovers Departures

Francis Tamsi

Carl Cruz RR Garcia

Aurel David

Mike Tolomia Terrence Romeo

Augus Denila

Raymar Jose Gryann Mendoza

Reeve Ugsang

Mark Belo Christian Sentcheu

Richard Escoto

Anthony Hargrove Jr. Joshua Aguilon

Russel Escoto (returnee)

Roger Pogoy Jovanie Luz

Achie Inigo

Joel Lee Yu

Jeson Delfinado

Ron Dennison

The return of Russel Escoto in the lineup after his ACL injury will be a big boost in the team. Though he plays as a center, this big man is a good shooter from the outside which makes him a legitimate inside-outside threat. The addition of RP Under-17 member Richard Escoto and Fil-Canadian point guard Aurel David brings promise to this already talent-laden squad.FEU lost their main offensive weapons in Garcia and Romeo who scored 35 points per game last season (almost half of the team’s scoring output). Another significant departure from the lineup was team captain Gryann Mendoza who played a very stellar game against University of the East during the second round with his clutch triple that helped FEU to push the game in double overtime.



With the exit of Romeo and Garcia, it’s anybody’s chance to be somebody. What I’m saying is, anybody can be the next Romeo/Garcia of the squad, given the chance and the will or courage to do it. That person could be anyone from the starters, or someone from the bench, or perhaps even from the new faces. Knowing FEU, they never lacked talent.

Another thing, having an “unknown” go-to-guy is a great advantage since it will be tough for other teams to know who to defend because there will be a possibility that anyone would just explode at any given time. Well, it could be one of FEU’s hidden strengths, and the team must use this trick card very well.



Ever since, one of FEU’s strengths is its guards. With the dribble-drive motion system that the team is current employing, the guards play a vital role. They are tasked to initiate the offense and set up the shooters waiting in the wings. DDM seemed to fit with this team especially with the kind of players the in the roster. The Tamaraws have good ball handlers and passers in Mike Tolomia and Achie Iñigo. Aside from that, they are also capable in creating shots for themselves. Expect them to unleash more of their point guard potentials and unselfish basketball.


Aside from the players, the coaching staff is one of the team’s strength. Because of their tactics and game plans, the players were able to deliver and perform well on the court. As a team, FEU is very lucky to have a good crop of tacticians at the helm which includes two national team coaches (Head Coach Nash Racela and Assistant Coach Josh Reyes) and one of the best point guards in the country (Assistant Coach Johnny Abarrientos). It’s such a big help because of the experiences and expertise they bring to the team.

Coach Nash’s strategy and system clicked well with the Tamaraws. Though it didn’t come instantly, it was fully embraced by the team and resulted to their early surge last season. He served as a coach to his boys not only on but also off the court. His fatherly approach brought a lot of changes not just with the players’ games but also in their character on and off the court. Since then, FEU was seen with a renewed confidence and increased morale which paved a good way for them.



First Round

Opponent Total Rebs FEU's Total


47 46


51 47


63 52


52 51


49 41


44 40


46 37

Second Round

Opponent Total Rebs FEU's Total


44 46


59 36


57 60


58 42


56 69


34 40


49 50

By just looking at the tables above, it’s clear that FEU lost in the rebounding battle last season. In 14 games, they only managed to win five times and lost nine with a net of -8.3 rebounds per game. Well, it was a big number, but larger when converted into points. One thing that can be easily observed above is that FEU was swept in its first seven games (in boards) but in the flip side, it was FEU who swept its opponents (in points), winning 7-0 in first round. FEU was pretty lucky to have survived despite being outrebounded. During the preseason, FEU fairly did well in this category. After their early exit, Coach Nash has surely planned the necessary adjustments that they need. It’s just a matter of days that we’ll be able to see how they will perform in the game.


Go-to guy

My former college editor likened FEU to a double-edged sword: that their strength can also be their weakness.

I have mentioned above that it will be difficult for the other teams on who to guard on this team. However, on the flip side, FEU will have to figure it out how to survive days when no one steps up and in crunch time situations.

In the past (aside from Romeo and Garcia), you also have the likes of Paul Sanga and Reil Cervantes. If you need a three-point specialist, you have Sanga; and if you need instant points in the paint, pass it to Cervantes. With what FEU has in its current lineup, it’s difficult to name anyone who will take the title of the team’s go-to guy.

FEU is no stranger to heart attack games and those terrific clutch players in the past were instrumental in winning those battles. Now, we need to face that big problem everybody has always avoided. Who will take the reins? Who will take that cold-blooded shot? I will leave this part blank; it’s up to the team to fill the answer.

X Factor


Mac Belo. He was a big revelation for the Tamaraws last season. He is not as intimidating compared to other players with the same position, but his perseverance makes him a formidable opponent on the court. His game even improved when he joined Sinag Pilipinas in last year’s SEA Games, and even led the team in scoring in their first few matches. Now only on his third year, he still has a long way to sharpen and showcase his skills.

Predicted standing

Probably 8-6 or 9-5, enough to enter Final Four. This season will be a rocky road for the green and gold cagers. Since they didn’t face UAAP teams in the preseason (aside from DLSU), it’s difficult to gauge the other teams’ improvements and on how the Tamaraws will fare against them. Given with the new talents for FEU, I think few games will be enough for them to adjust to the big game and fully unleash their potentials. Most of them are what we call experienced rookies. Some of them have just completed their residency and played for the Tams’ Team B, and others have already been exposed to tournaments internationally.

In order to get their wins, they don’t need to rush; they just need a lot of patience and perseverance to surpass each game. After all, the tools have already been laid, it’s just a matter of polishing and making the most out of it. Who knows? Maybe the key to the 20th crown is just lurking around the corner.