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Tolentino finds ‘home’ at FEU

FEU's Arvin Tolentino drives against UST's Eric Caunan  (MB photo | Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

FEU’s Arvin Tolentino drives against UST’s Eric Caunan (MB photo | Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

By Jerome Lagunzad

Far Eastern University coach Olsen Racela is hardly surprised with the way prized Tamaraws recruit Arvin Tolentino is doing the damage offensively in the UAAP Season 80 basketball tournament so far.

The 6-foot-5 power forward, who initially saw action for powerhouse Ateneo two years ago, has given the Tamaraws the firepower that they hoped they would have following the graduation of workhorse Raymar Jose and slasher Monbert Arong.

Despite sitting out for a year due to residency requirement, Tolentino is showcasing the offensive skills rarely seen from local big men in the collegiate ranks, making three-point shots with above-average accuracy and even beating his defenders off the dribble.

Unknown to many, Tolentino has already matched his output of 66 points and 31 rebounds in 13 games he played for the Blue Eagles on the way to claiming the UAAP Season 78 Rookie of the Year honors.

And in FEU’s last two victories over University of Santo Tomas and National University in a span of five days, he averaged 19.0 points and made three triples per game on top of eight rebounds, 1.5 steals and an assist.

But the desire to make his presence felt more on the defensive end is what Racela has been begging for from Tolentino, who initially played under him with the Philippine Youth team in the 2011 FIBA-Asia Under 16 Championships.

“It’s those intangibles ang hinahanap ko sa kanya. The more he plays defense, the more he gets rebounds, the more he boxes out and gets rebounds, ‘di ba?” he said, with Tolentino sitting beside him.

“The more minutes he will get. And, ‘yun din ang sinabi ko last game. I think he’s giving the effort. The effort is there. He just has to be more consistent sa effort niya.”

Despite his offensive brilliance underscored by a career-best of 23 points in FEU’s 90-83 win over NU last Wednesday, Tolentino is keeping his focus on the bigger picture.

“It’s a good win for us. We shared the ball well. Marami kaming naging open looks dahil sa pag-share namin ng bola,” he said after thriving with his teammates in their pick-and-pop plays, leading to several uncontested shots from beyond the arc.

Now in solo fourth spot with a 3-2 mark, Tolentino and FEU will try to sustain their roll on Sunday when they take on second-running University of the Philippines in another crucial clash.