By: Jerome Lagunzad
(Mall of Asia Arena)
2 p.m. – UE vs Ateneo
4 p.m. – NU vs Adamson
Outside of National University coach Jamike Jarin and his fellow Bulldogs, only a few is taking notice of skipper J-Jay Alejandro’s bold transformation in the UAAP Season 80 basketball tournament.
More known as a spot-up shooter during his first four years under former mentor Eric Altamirano, the 6-foot-2 guard is fast-turning into an all-around player underscored by his league-leading 6.7 assists on top of 13.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.3 steals – third-best in the tourney – per game.
Aside from his solid numbers, Alejandro is certainly embracing his bigger role on a new-look NU side which has made its presence felt early, winning its two of its first three matches to stay hot on the heels of defending champion La Salle and powerhouse Ateneo.
Alejandro, playing on his fifth and final year, dished out his most impressive performance yet in NU’s 94-84 victory over University of Santo Tomas last Wednesday, piling up 12 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists – tied for tournament-best so far.
“He’s on a different level and he’s just playing selfless,” beamed Jarin of his prized veteran. “Everybody’s talking about how good the other players have performed the last two weeks. And nobody’s talking about J-Jay. But that’s how the selfless way is.”
While Jarin is impressed with his showing, Alejandro couldn’t express the same, aware that he still has some polishing to do in terms of improving his shooting clip (30.4 percent) and limiting his turnovers (a tourney-worst 4.3).
“Struggling pa rin talaga ako,” he admitted. “Maybe next game (against Adamson today), makuha ko na ‘yung shooting form.”
Still, Alejandro couldn’t deny that he’s thriving on Jarin’s proven system. “Wala naming effort to change my style of play. I’m just reading the defense kung ano ang ibinibigay sa akin. Siyempre kung dalawa na ang tao mo, kailangan ipasa mo na. Sa system kasi ni coach Jamike, kailangan talaga all-around,” he said.
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