MANILA, Philippines (22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship): During his playing days Olsen Racela’s uncanny craftiness as a point guard was a part of PBA legend lore. Now, entrusted with a bunch of enthusiastic Filipino youngsters in the Energen Pilipinas U18 team, the 42-year-old will look to his wards to re-create similar speed and skill in taking on the “taller opponents” in the forthcoming 22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship.
The Filipino boys won all their four games in the 8th SEABA U18 Championship at Singapore last weekend thus retaining their top position in the regional competition and qualifying for Mongolia, but Racela is not ready to accept that the team has reached its potential.
“I still believe our strength is our speed. We plan to take advantage of this especially against bigger opponents,” Racela said in a conversation with this website.
FIBA Asia: Is the victory in SEABA U18 a correct measure of the strength of the team?
We hope to add a few more players to strengthen our line-up for Mongolia.
We know that the competition in FIBA Asia is a lot tougher, so we plan to add players who can help us against taller opponents.
FIBA Asia: Many of the core players are from the team that played in the 2nd FIBA Asia U16 Championship at Nha Trang City (Vietnam) (where Philippines were a semifinalist)?
Yes. Five players who played in Singapore were also members of our team from Nha Trang.
FIBA Asia: Between Nha Trang and now, what is the improvement?
One of course is that the players who played in Nha Trang are more experienced.
Some of them have grown a few inches, but most of the others are new to international basketball. We hope the players from last year's team will use the experience they’ve gained to help the other members of the team to get better.
FIBA Asia: Can you give us some details about the training program?
This year's team was formed a month before the qualifying tournament in Singapore.
We practice three times a week only because the boys also have their school and school teams to attend to.
We had little time to prepare this year compared to our team in Nha Trang.
FIBA Asia: What are the strengths of the team right now? How do you plan to build on it?
Since we are a small team, I still believe our strength is our speed. We plan to take advantage of this especially against bigger opponents.
FIBA Asia: What are the weaknesses in the team? How do you plan to overcome it?
We had little time to prepare so I consider this a big problem because other Asian teams have been together for months already. With more games together, I know we'll get better as a team.
S Mageshwaran / FIBA Asia