At First Glance: Arellano University Chiefs
Pio Garcia (The Philippine Star) - June 20, 2013 - 12:00am

The Good

What’s going for Arellano these days is that they have a great, champion coach in their fold in the person of Koy Banal, who’s always a great interview off the court. The defensive-minded head coach has won championships both in the NCAA and UAAP. He knows how to balance his defensive philosophy with that of his offensive plans.

It also helps that he has a star to lean on in his stops. He had Arwind Santos when he was in FEU. Nigerian behemoth Sam Ekwe was his pillar in his stint at San Beda. Now? He has another one. And this guy, if he plays on full gear, is considered the third best collegiate player in the land today behind Bobby Ray Parks Jr. of National University and Kiefer Ravena of Ateneo.

But only James Forrester can answer or prove this tag I am giving him. The way I saw his play in FilOil, it was pretty much on neutral. He’s just taking what the defense is giving him and not demanding the ball that much. Well, why don’t we ask Calvin Abueva who pretty much takes everything basketball seriously? See, if they thought Abueva was a monster already, I say wait for Forrester to wake up. This guy is as legit a small forward this country can get. He can score whenever he wants to, whether its shooting sweet-looking jumpers or charging down the lane to overpower whoever crosses him. The guy is simply a natural. Not to mention, very, very smooth with high basketball IQ.

While Forrester is the heart, soul and face of Arellano Basketball, there are guys who are ready to help him. One who is generally unknown, as of now, and another, a basketball prodigal son who has clawed his way back. The first is rookie point guard Gio Jalalon, the second, former Light Bomber Keith Agovida, who once burned the baskets for 82 points.

It may be a bold statement to say that Gio Jalalon plays like Derrick Rose. But he plays like the Chicago Bulls superstar in that he is lightning quick, likes to drive down the lane and finishes strongly at the rack. Oh, and he still doesn’t have a jumper under his legs, but given time, Koy Banal has a point guard for the future already. Mind you, this guy is strong even if he is built light.

And then there’s Agovida. People have wondered whatever happened to this guy. He was supposed to play for UP then disappeared completely from basketball. In his postgame interview, he said that he focused on his studies so that he can get a chance to play. Now, not only is he going to get a chance, he’s going to make Koy Banal a genius for picking him up and sticking with him till he gets the grades to finally play basketball.

There’s no turning back for him now. Playing the same spot as James Forrester, he’s going to give headaches to teams come NCAA play. You replace a sleeping monster with a comebacking high school star who’s hungry to prove his worth? Teams are playing dangerously with that predicament.

The Bad

The only problem I see right now are the lack of inside presence and Nard Pinto.

There’s no problem with outside shooting as Levi Hernandez, Forrester, Zachary Nicholls can hold their own in a firefight especially with Agovida and Jalalon creating space because of their driving skills. But the inside presence… yikes.

Outside of graduating senior Prince Caperal and Ralph Salcedo, the only thing John Bangga and Kevin Enriquez can do right now are rebound and rebound. There’s no offense to speak of. Salcedo at times even disappears, content to just set picks and play defense. If Arellano is going to the Final Four and beyond this season, they need Salcedo and Caperal to play consistently inside and just rebound and shoot their pretty 15-foot jumpshots.

But what about Nard Pinto? What’s bad about him? The guy still plays erratically at times, and to think he’s a graduating senior already. He wants to play hero ball on 70 percent of his possessions, which I observed in their game against the Perpetual Help Altas and even in their NCAA games. Yes, the guy can play, but he needs to learn more control if they are going past the eliminations round. There’s no need to play hero ball when you have a James Forrester who is your clear-cut go-to-guy.

The Ugly

What’s ugly? Well, the faces of the teams they’re going to face.

It’s going to have that ugly look because Arellano is as legit as they can get. They’re primed not only to make the Final Four but contend heavily for the NCAA crown come league play against the San Beda Red Lions.

“The ultimate goal is the championship,” their leader, James Forrester, said in a post-game interview, “We’ll take it one day at a time to get there.”

They’ll get there this year, at the Final Four in the least, and I am calling it this early.

Watch out for…

Gio Jalalon, Keith Agovida and Ralph Salcedo. I’m picking Salcedo over John Bangga to log heavy minutes at the three or four spot. Agovida will provide scoring punch along with Jalalon plus the intangibles stated above. This will ease the scoring pressure off the starting unit especially if all three at least drop in eight points each, a game.

Full Roster

1. Agovida, Keith Jasper M.

2. Bangga, Nichole John B.

3. Cadavis, Julius Salvador T.

4. Caperal, Prince Renmer B.

5. Enriquez, Allen S.

6. Forrester, James Patrick

7. Gumaru, Donald G.

8. Hernandez, Levi M.

9. Jalalon, Jiovani N.

10. Malanday, Larry John II F.

11. Margallo, Alwin John F.

12. Nicholls, Zachary James C.

13. Pinto, Nard John V.

14. Salcedo, Ralph Chrysler A.

15. Serjue, Adam Jacob V.

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