OLSEN Racela played a big part in Johnny Abarrientos becoming a better player.
The retired 49-year-old guard admitted Racela, his long-time playing contemporary, served as a challenge for him to elevate his game a step higher.
Abarrientos said he's played against Racela in high school, college, in commercial amateur leagues, and even competed for spots in both the national youth and men's team, a long rivalry they would take with them to the PBA.
And for him to get to the next level, the 'Flying A' knew he has to raise his game in order to compete against 'Rah-Rah' Racela.
"He (Racela) knew kung paano ako maglaro. So para mai-angat ko yung antas, kailangan gumawa ako ng extra," said Abarrientos. "Isa siya sa mga nagpatibay sa akin. Siguro kaya nagkaroon din ng isang Johnny Abarrientos sa PBA dahil yan kay Coach O."
The two former great guards have since branched out into coaching following their playing careers. Abarrientos is now with the Magnolia Hotshots coaching staff, while Racela is among the deputies of Tim Cone at Barangay Ginebra.
Abarrientos went on to win a total of 12 championships in his 15-year career, nine of them with Alaska, including a grand slam in 1996 and an MVP trophy that same year.
Part of the credit goes to Racela and the other point guards that came after them, the likes of Jimmy Alapag, Jayson Castro, Alex Cabagnot, and Topex Robinson, who serves as assistant to coach Louie Alas at Phoenix.
"Para bantayan ka ng mga yan, kapag hindi ka ready, any given time, chi-chibugin ka ng mga yan," added Abarrientos. "Kailangan kong mag-taas ng standard para maka-compete ako sa kanila.
"Yung may re-rebound sa likod mo, pagtingin mo si Topex. Pinapa-nood mo lang siya na ginagawa yun sa San Sebastian, tapos ngayon sa PBA. So nasasabi mo, ganito pala talaga si Topex. So ma-inspired ka," said Abarrientos, who was joined by Racela and Robinson in the recent episode of the PBA Kamustahan, along with Columbian head coach Johnedel Cardel, and fellow deputies Danny Ildefonso (Alaska), and Rommel Adducul (Blackwater).
The Far Eastern University alumnus also recalled how he saw Alapag, standing at 5-foot-9, performed a two-handed reverse dunk while in practice during their time together with the national team.
"So part yun ng pagiging me, paano ako naging Johnny Abarrientos," he added. "Mai-inspired ka na akyatin mo pa kung ano yung kaya mong akyatin." (RG)