Without fellow big man Richard Escoto, skipper Raymar Jose made a conscious effort to work doubly hard on Sunday night, leading to one of his finest performances—rebounding-wise—for defending champion Far Eastern U.
The 6-foot-4 Jose lorded it over in the lane, hauling down a career-best 22 rebounds, as the Tamaraws defeated the struggling University of the East Red Warriors 67-59 to put their UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball title campaign back on track at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
With Escoto recovering from a bruised left hip which he suffered in their 75-65 win over Adamson exactly a week ago,
Jose proved a handful against his UE counterparts down low, scoring 11 points, issuing two assists and repeatedly hauling down the leather with ease.
“Kapag nami-miss nila ang shots, andu’n lang ako lagi nakaabang,” Jose told sports scribes during the post-match interview, with FEU coach Nash Racela sitting beside him.
While Jose has certainly dominated the Red Warriors frontline, Racela was hardly surprised to see that kind of performance.
“Raymar is capable of doing that every game,” he said, adding Jose certainly benefited from a timely pep talk with the Tamaraws coaching staff to manage himself on the court.
“Mina-manage na niya ‘yung sarili niya. Meaning he’s not playing 100 percent when he’s on the floor. Natatakot siya mag-cramps sa fourth quarter,” added Racela, referring to Jose’s struggles in their five-point loss to powerhouse La Salle in the opening week.
As they continue to find a new identity after losing six vital cogs from their championship team last year, Racela said Jose and the Tamaraws should start learning how to play sharp consistently.
“We were telling the team that we’re not like [the team] last year na mayroon kaming switch on, switch off. Kahit mag-relax ng konti ‘yung mga players namin, suddenly we can turn it on and makaka-recover kami,” he stressed, referring to his formidable crew that includes Gilas cadets Mac Belo, Mike Tolomia, Roger Pogoy and Russel Escoto, older brother of Richard.
“This year is totally different. We need to switch on for 40 minutes,” added Racela, before turning his sights to Jose. “Kapag naka-on ka ng 40 minutes, you can get over 20 rebounds. Hopefully he learns from that.” – By Jerome Lagunzad
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