By JONAS TERRADO
Nash Racela said he was able to find some silver linings during his disappointing tenure as Blackwater coach that ended following a winless campaign in the PBA Philippine Cup.
Despite being sacked by management shortly after his two-year stint that was marred by a record-setting 19-game losing streak, Racela felt there were some things he described as “small victories.”
“Sabi ko nga during one postgame that I had with the team that it’s hard to look at the big picture because of the record that have, but there are a lot of small victories,” Racela told veteran PBA commentator Chiqui Reyes in the latter’s Sports Locked and Loaded podcast.
Racela added that he was pleased with how free agent pickup Kelly Nabong, rookie Andre Paras and the returning Carl Bryan Cruz progressed during the losing run.
He noted how Nabong, a serviceable big man but has a reputation for being temperamental, was able to provide good numbers while keeping his emotions checked before an injury cut short his campaign.
Nabong averaged 12.0 points and 9.0 rebounds in seven games for the Bossing.
“When he was playing for us, he was averaging like a double-double at di siya nagwawala. There were moments na, alam mo yun malapit na, pero na-control niya sarili niya,” Racela said Nabong.
“To me, I told them that that was a small victory for me. Kung matulungan ko si Kelly at least in that regard, then he will have, for sure, a longer PBA career and other teams would again consider him. I hope he appreciates that at sana nakita niya yun.”
Paras, selected 27th overall by Blackwater in the PBA Rookie Draft, averaged just 1.6 points and 1.3 rebounds in 10 games, but Racela saw how the actor-cager worked his way to at least gain a spot in the rotation with his ability to rebound and play solid defense.
“Slowly pinasok namin siya from three minutes to five minutes to eight minutes to 10, 12, and then there was a time that I think he was playing about 13 to 15 minutes. I’m really proud of Andre because he has earned that,” Racela said.
“Di lang siya yung basta nilagay dun ng 15 minutes dahil Andre Paras siya so inearn nia yun. And if he continues to grow with the kind of right attitude that he has, then malayo mararating niya. Maybe we won’t see it right now, but maybe in 1-2 years then we will see his full potential.”
Then there’s Cruz, who missed last year’s PBA bubble due to a torn meniscus on his knee but had a solid stint in his Blackwater return.
Cruz played all seven games in the Bacolor restart and produced 8.1 points and 2.7 rebounds despite thoughts of retiring, according to Racela.
“I know there was a moment during the year na parang nag-iisip na siya kung pwede na daw siyang magretire because of his injury,” Racela said.
“And we had a good talk. Binigyan natin ng konting direksyon and then just seeing him play, even if he is not yet 100 percent, then it’s a small victory because down the road, alam natin kung anu ang kayang ibigay ng isang CBC.”
Racela was replaced by Ariel Vanguardia on an interim basis a day following Blackwater’s final match against Meralco, a move said he learned through stories that were published online.
He was scheduled to meet with Blackwater team governor Silliman Sy Thursday, Sept. 23 which Racela sought in order “to have some closure.”