Arellano to bank on Jalalon's leadership in NCAA 91

In this file photo, Jio Jalalon of Arellano goes for a lay-up against Perpetual's Nosa Omorogbe

MANILA, Philippines - Arellano University is expecting bigger things in Jio Jalalon this year.

Jalalon, fresh from taking part in Gilas cadet's recent gold medal triumph in the 28th Southeast Asian Games in Singapore, will be the focus of Arellano's campaign as it eyes a return trip the finals in the 91st NCAA basketball tournament unfolding on June 27 at the MOA Arena in Pasay City.

"We lost several key players including some of our veteran guards so we expect him (Jalalon) to carry a bigger responsibility this season," Arellano U coach Jerry Codinera told The STAR yesterday.

Jalalon will be thrust into the leadership role after the Chiefs lost a slew of players, including last year's backcourt leader John Pinto.

Other players Arellano lost were Prince Caperal, Levi Hernandez, Kieth Agovida, Ice Ciriacruz and Ralph Salcedo.

Arellano surprised everyone by gate-crashing into the finals with their high-octane offense. And although it was swept by reigning five-peat champion San Beda, the Chiefs left a mark indicating they're a team to contend with in the next few years.

And that is because of the emergence of Jalalon, who made it to the league's First Mythical Team a year ago.

"I've played for the country before and the experience of wearing a uniform bearing our flag helped me to become a better player," said Codinera of Jalalon. "And I know it will make him a better player."

While Arellano emerged with the best offense with an average of 85.7 points a game last year, it couldn't take pride in its defense as it allowed its opponents a league worst 82.9 points.

Ironically, the Chiefs are being coached by Codinera, who made a living with his defense during his PBA days.

"Definitely we'll try to tighten our defense a bit this season without slowing down our offense," said Codinera, who was given a nickname as "Defense Minister" during his PBA prime.

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