MANILA, Philippines – Jiovani Jalalon has become synonymous with the Arellano University basketball program after he led the Chiefs to the NCAA Finals twice in the four years that he spent with the school.
Behind Jalalon's spectacular playmaking ability, the Chiefs reached the Finals in Season 90 and again in Season 92, but in both instances, they were dismissed by powerhouse San Beda College.
Jalalon earned Mythical Team honors in his final three seasons with the Chiefs, but opted not to return to Arellano for his final season as he instead decided to focus on his stint with the Gilas Cadets.
He joined the 2016 PBA Rookie Draft and was selected by the Star Hotshots in a special round.
Losing Jalalon is a massive blow for Arellano, who relied heavily on the point guard for its offense. In his final season with the Chiefs, Jalalon normed 21.0 points, 7.3 assists, and 2.2 steals per game while playing over 31 minutes per contest. His usage rate, which estimates the percentage of team plays used by a player, was at 30%.
Prior to leaving the team, Jalalon addressed his teammates and exhorted them to keep playing at a high level even though he will no longer be around to set them up.
"Sabi ko sa kanila, gawin niyo lang 'yung best niyo, kasi si Coach Jerry (Codiñera), magaling naman mag-coach," Jalalon said ahead of the draft.
"Binibigay naman niya 'yung best, binibigay niya 'yung kumpyansa, so sa kanila na rin talaga 'yun," he added.
[I told the team to just do their best, because Coach Jerry is a good coach who gives his best for the team, and he gives them confidence. So it's up to them to make it happen.]
The burden of carrying the Chiefs will now fall on Kent Salado, who together with Jalalon formed perhaps the most fearsome backcourt in college basketball last season. It remains to be seen if Salado is capable of carrying a team on his shoulders, as Jalalon often did in the past couple of seasons for Arellano.
"Tinuturuan ko rin si Kent," Jalalon said. "Kasi minsan, wala siya sa wisyo."
"Sabi ko sa kanya, kailangan mo 'yan, kasi kailangan mo mag-lead bilang point guard. Sabi ko sa kanya, turuan mo 'yang mga teammate mo, ikaw ang mag-lead sa court," he added.
"Sabi niya, kaya niya daw."
[I still have to teach Kent because sometimes he gets out of sorts. I tell him to lead, as the point guard, to teach his teammates and to be the leader on the court. He told me that he can do it.]
With Jalalon no longer in the picture, coach Codiñera will also hope to get better performances from his other players, most notably former Rookie of the Year Dioncee Holts, whose level of play fell off a cliff in Season 92.
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