Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

UAAP Season 80 Preview: Far Eastern University Tamaraws

UAAP Season 80 Preview: Far Eastern University Tamaraws
by rick olivares

For decades, the Far Eastern University Tamaraws paraded teams stocked with talented no-names from all over the archipelago who’d come to the big leagues and make names for themselves. Now they’ve reached out across the world and now look like a more 21st century team what with the mix of accents, tattoos, and talent.

The word there is talent. In new head coach Olsen Racela’s debut season with FEU, his team has re-loaded with four players who will clearly make a difference for the Tamaraws.

That’s Arvin Tolentino and Hubert Cani who transferred from Ateneo, Jasper Parker who first strutted his wares with Southwestern University in CESAFI, and newcomer, Fil-Canadian RJ Ramirez. All are big game players. Watching FEU in the pre-season, the newcomers have stamped their class and impact on the team.

In Tolentino, FEU has a long range bomber who can take the last shot. In Cani, they have a quality point guard --- yes, he flashed the form he last displayed in high school and not with Ateneo who can backstop Wendell Comboy. He adds depth to a court general corps that also includes Axel Iñigo, Jojo Trinidad, and Parker.

Speaking of Parker, he isn’t that deadly player he was with SWU as he had Mark Tallo running the point too while he slid to shooting guard. In this pass first dribble drive system of FEU, he cannot simply look. But the system is good.

RJ Ramirez is going to be a top player for this team. He doesn’t need plays called for him which is a huge plus for a team with players who need the ball to be very effective. Ramirez will provide hustle points, defense, and a lot of energy.

Of the holdovers from their title team of two seasons ago, Ron Dennison has become a better player with a dependable jump shot. Plus, he has gotten more adept at pilfering unsuspecting foes of the ball.

Richard Escoto is undersized in terms of height but not in heart. If he can get into the flow of the game that helps the frontline.

Center Prince Orizu remains an enigma. How can he put up some solid stats one game then be as quiet as a mouse in the next? If he can bring it every game, then he will open up the floor for this team’s gunners and slashers.

That brings up Brandley Bienes who can hit triples. Ditto with Joe Nunag.

The x-factor here is Ken Tuffin, the second year Fil-Kiwi. He has that PBA height. He can shoot (just not consistently). He can play defense. He will eventually captain this Tamaraws team. You can see it. You can see his contributions on defense but when he is unable to score, his frustration is evident on his face. The dribble drive positions him in the corners or across the arc for triples. I’d rather he attack than jack up those shots of which Escoto, Cani, and Ramirez were tops in accuracy. If he can be consistent enough on offense and help with his trademark D he will propel this team, ease the pressure on a thin frontline (Barkley Ebona and Escoto round out the rotation).

The Tamaraws are fun to watch as it looks like they found the flow and rhythm of their championship squad of two years ago. And they can do it on both ends of the court. They trap and hound foes.

The concern for this team is confidence. They know they have talent. But it’s confidence. During the summer, UP waylaid them and they crumbled. They played La Salle once; the first they were blown out. In the second they won in that now infamous fight (but that was without Ben Mbala). The question is, how did they come out of that fight – with a united team and with a keen understanding of what it takes to win or will they back down when the going gets tough?

How they answer that will determine their season.

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