Leadership and game-day shoes: How Olsen Racela had a big influence on LA Tenorio

LA Tenorio put into words how huge of an impact Olsen Racela had on his career. Ernie Sarmiento/ESPN5

LA Tenorio has been in the league for quite a while, 13 years to be exact. Throughout his career in the PBA, he has won five championships, three Finals MVP awards and has been selected to the All-Star team nine times.

He has become one of the most reputable and recognizable point guards in the league because of his passion and steady leadership on the court.

But if you ask Tenorio, some of his basketball success can attributed to former PBA player Olsen Racela.

Tenorio's relationship with Racela began during his college days with the Ateneo Blue Eagles, but the connection between the two only blossomed when he turned pro.

They became teammates in 2006 after San Miguel drafted Tenorio. When Tenorio came in the league, Racela had already attained success with the Beermen and had established himself as one of the proven point guards in the franchise's history. Tenorio knew there was a lot he could learn from a great basketball mind so he took advantage of it while they were teammates.

All the things he absorbed from Racela back then, Tenorio still applies to this very day.

"Yung pattern ng game niya and kung papaano siya magsalita or mag-lead ng team before, medyo 'yun ang ginagawa ko," Tenorio said on Sunday in an episode of The Drop In. "Lahat ng sinabi niya sa 'kin before, talagang nakatatak pa rin sa 'kin."

As a rookie at the time, Tenorio knew he wouldn't be handed the keys to the offense just yet, but having Racela as a mentor back then helped shape how his career has turned out.

"Sinasabi niya sa 'kin dati, it's not how much playing time in the PBA you get right away, it's the length of the career [that] is important," said Tenorio.

"[Olsen] retired when he was 40, and I told him I'd try to do the same. I'm 35 now, so I still have five years," he bantered.

Choosing game-day shoes

Not many people know that Racela also had a hand in how Tenorio chooses the shoes he wears each game.

"Since nag-start ako in the PBA, ito natutunan ko kay Coach Olsen and Coach Jeff [Cariaso]: 'Pag dark uniform kami, white shoes ako. 'Pag naka-white uniform kami, dark shoes ako. Contrast ako, ever since until now."

The Ginebra point guard said he almost always has two colorways of a particular shoe.

"Kailangan alam ko that day kung dark or light kami. Every time I have to check the schedule, kasi di ako pwede magkamali. 'Yan 'yung isa sa mga superstitions ko every game," he explained.

The shade of the shoes alternates, but does he stick with one particular shoe model or does he sport a different one every game? Tenorio revealed it depends on how his team is playing.

"One pair, I give them 3-4 games. But for example if we lose two straight games, papalitan ko na 'yun, maghahanap na ko ng ibang pair. Kahit gustong gusto ko 'yung shoe, 'pag nakadalawang talo na ko dun, itatabi ko muna uli yun. [Pero] 'pag dire-derecho panalo, derecho lang hanggang sa maluma 'yun," he explained.

Whether it's the shoes or how he handles himself on the court, LA Tenorio is grateful for the impact Olsen Racela has had in his life. And up until today, he maintains a tight connection with his mentor, who is currently on the Ginebra coaching staff.

"Siya yung pinakamalaking influence sa 'kin sa basketball. Until now, hindi kami natitigil na constant na usapan namin regarding sa basketball, sa buhay at sa pamilya."