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Jio returns home now a PBA All-Star

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Jio Jalalon relished the chance of playing in his hometown last night as a PBA All-Star, the first since he left this bustling city as wide-eyed kid trying to find his niche in Manila.

Jalalon was looking to dazzle the expected huge crowd at the Xavier University gym as a member of the Mindanao All-Stars against Gilas Pilipinas in the first of three games in the All-Star series. The last time he was playing here, the Star Hotshots may have been probably been a relative unknown.

“Sobrang sarap ng pakiramdam dahil nakabalik ako dito,” said Jalalon, who usually comes home every holiday but haven’t played here since his high school days at Sacred Heart of Jesus Montessori School.

The 24-year-old’s journey to PBA rookie took an unusual route. He started out playing for Informatics in the National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities in 2011, before being recruited by Arellano University for the NCAA two years later.

It was at Arellano where Jalalon blossomed into a star, forming building blocks of his eventual ascension into the Gilas Pilipinas pool, and eventually the PBA.

Unlike in his past homecomings, Jalalon brought along his Hotshots coach Chito Victolero and his staff, teammates Rafi Reavis and Peter June Simon for lunch at their home. Jalalon said the gathering felt as if it was a fiesta.

“Nagkagulo dun sa amin dahil halos lahat ng mga kapitbahay namin nandun sa bahay namin. Sobrang tuwa nila dahil nakakita sila ng mga star player,” said Jalalon.

The neighborhood is surely proud of calling their own a kid who left in 2011 with nothing but high hopes and returned flashing the skills that made him live the dream.