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Without ace guard Jalalon, Arellano faces rough sailing

By Jerome Lagunzad

Games Saturday
(Buddhacare gym)
9 a.m. – La Salle vs Ateneo
10:45 a.m. – Adamson vs NU
12:30 p.m. – UP vs CEU

Life without crafty playmaker Jio Jalalon won’t be any easier for Arellano University.

But the new-look Chiefs are ready to move on, with fourth-year coach Jerry Codiñera sounding confident that his wards can make their presence in the NCAA seniors basketball tourney that tips off this Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

After Arellano finished as bridesmaid to powerhouse San Beda last year, the 5-foot-9 Jalalon decided to skip his fifth and final year then brought his acts to the pro ranks where he’s making big strides as the primary orchestrator for Star and Gilas Pilipinas national team as well.

With Jalalon no longer around, the Chiefs should be in for a tougher ride. But Codiñera, 50, is unfazed.

“The Bus Driver is not around anymore. Si Conductor na lang ang natitira. I hope he will do well in driving his passengers,” he said, referring to Jalalon’s former backcourt partner Kent Salado who’s expected to play a bigger role as the Chiefs’ new go-to-guy.

But that doesn’t mean the daunting task of filling in the big shoes left by Jalalon solely rests on Salado’s shoulders.

“He can lead the team but the others should follow. He still needs solid support from his teammates,” stressed Codiñera.

“Pwede niyang punuan ‘yung iniwan ni Jalalon. Pero sino naman ‘yung magpi-fill up sa iiwan ni Salado? Dun sa 2-spot na tatakbo kasabay niya sa transition. There’s a big void talaga.”

One of the pro league’s greats, Codiñera is hoping the likes of athletic big man in Lervin Flores, Zach Nicholls, Allen Enriquez, Kraniel Villoria, Rence Alcoriza and several recruits, led by Davao native Levi Dela Cruz II, will deliver ample numbers.

Asked about their chances of making it back — at least in the Final 4 – Codiñera is keeping his hopes at modest.
“Basta we will try to win and improve everyday. Sa chemistry, we will try to keep things simple kasi marami kaming bago,” he said.

The Chiefs, also the losing finalists in Codiñera’s initial stint in 2014, will plunge to action right away on the opening day against the Mapua Cardinals, who won’t have reigning two-time league MVP Allwell Oraeme at their disposal.