TASKED to help steer the Blackwater Elite to respectability in the Philippine Basketball Association, new coach Nash Racela said he is confident of his wards making things happen but admittedly in a gradual manner.
Mr. Racela, 48, joined the Elite in the offseason and is looking to take a young crew and the struggling squad to a level of consistency in winning in the local pro league.
And having had the opportunity to work for some time with the pieces at his disposal, the former TNT KaTropa coach said the outlook for the team is positive and that they cannot wait to explore the team’s potential.
“Our mindset is to improve day-to-day and we always believe in the saying that slow progress is still progress,” Mr. Racela shared during his recent guesting, along with older brother Olsen, on Tiebreaker Vods’ Coaches Unfiltered podcast.
Mr. Racela, who also had a stint with Far Eastern University as coach, said they were seeing continued development in the team until the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic ground everything to a halt.
“Before the pandemic we were seeing improvements already in the team. If you watched us during our first tune-up game, we were beaten by a wide margin which was really embarrassing. But towards the end of February, our performance improved. Then came the pandemic and all the activities stopped. But again, as long as we focus on continuing to grow, I think we will be okay in time; that Blackwater can be competitive,” he said.
For the currently suspended PBA season, the Elite are made up of young veterans and upstarts.
With the team are Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Mac Belo, Niño Canaleta, Mike Cortez, Carl Bryan Cruz, Ed Daquioag, James Sena, Don Trollano, Yousef Taha and Roi Sumang.
Also in the lineup are Paul Desiderio, Chris Javier, Marion Magat, Diego Dario, Ron Dennison, Mike Tolomia and rookie Maurice Shaw.
Mr. Racela said with the kind of team they have he sees a running squad that could also put pressure on the defensive end.
“In terms of system, I’ve been consistent ever since that I want a team that runs. I think with Blackwater I’m very fortunate to have a young group of players at least majority of them who could really run and put pressure on the defensive end. That is what we want to be consistent with in our game,” he said.
The Blackwater coach went on to say that they see rookie Shaw as being of help although they are not putting too much pressure on the Filipino-American player in his first year with the team.
“With Maurice Shaw, initially we’re not setting high goals for him. We want him to be very serviceable, be a defender, be an anchor of the defense, grab some rebounds, intimidate the opposing teams especially when they attack the basket,” said Mr. Racela of his 35-year-old rookie, the second overall pick in last year’s draft.
“Based on our tuneup games, he has been able to do what we are asking of him. Slowly he has been adjusting to the style of play here in the PBA. We’re very positive with Maurice Shaw,” he added.
Like the rest of the league, Blackwater is preparing to return to gym training sessions after the PBA was given the nod to do so with the issuance of the Joint Administrative Order (JAO) from the government.
The JAO came from the Games and Amusements Board, Department of Health and the Philippine Sports Commission and contains the implementing guidelines governing the conduct of professional and nonprofessional sports training while the country is under community quarantine brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Blackwater hopes to begin non-scrimmage workouts once it completes the first of a series of swab testings for all of its team personnel, which is one of the conditions set by the league, and approved by the government, for the return of activities. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo