Vallena bears tough challenge as new CIT-U Wildcats coach

Emmanuel B. Villaruel - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — Edsel Say Vallena unequivocally admitted that he has mixed feelings in accepting the job as head coach of the Cebu Institute of Technology-University (CIT-U) Wildcats in the upcoming Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc. (CESAFI) basketball season.


Vallena will be replacing Bembem Alcaraz who will now focus on the Wildkittens, CIT-U’s high school varsity.

The veteran bench tactician said he is excited that he will take back the coaching reins of the collegiate ballclub where he first made a name for himself, but anxious at the same time because he knows the gravity of the challenge that looms large in his horizon.

“I really had mixed feelings. I am excited to serve my beloved alma mater once again, but I’m a bit nervous also because I am aware of the tough challenge that a coaching job entails,” said Vallena.

Vallena first called the shots for the Wildcats during the inaugural season of the CESAFI in 2001. Interestingly, they made it to the finals but eventually lost to the University of the Visayas (UV) Green Lancers.

As a vital cog of CIT-U during his college days, Vallena was also a title contender. Alongside Gilbert Demape, they powered the Wildcats to the championship round in the Cebu Amateur Athletic Association (now the CESAFI) in 1994, albeit in a losing effort against the Cebu Doctors’ College Stallions.

Vallena, currently the chief strategist of Danao City in the province-wide Cebu Governor’s Cup basketball tournament, will formally assume his post in April yet but he already primed himself up for the tough grind ahead.

On top of his worklist is to scout for talents and form a decent fighting squad for the 2019 CESAFI cage wars set to kick off this August at the Cebu Coliseum.

“I am practically starting from scratch. I only have four months to assemble a team and prepare them for this year’s CESAFI season. That is a lot of work to do. And with only two to three players left from CIT-U’s previous lineup, I am literally groping in the dark. I’m in a tough situation but I am up for the challenge,” said Vallena, once a commercial star who won back-to-back crowns with Skygo Riders in the now defunct Cebu Basketball Federation (CBF) nearly two decades ago.

Vallena, who founded the Sirlitz Basketball Training Camp in 2000 that counts UAAP superstar now PBA cager Paul Desiderio as its brightest product, is cognizant of the fact that no one can put up a competitive team overnight.

Nevertheless, Vallena vowed that he will transform the Wildcats from their usual ‘whipping boys’ tag to a respectable fighting force in Cebu’s premiere inter-school athletic league.

 “Building up a strong, cohesive team takes a longer period of time that is why I can’t promise so much in my rookie year,” said Vallena. “But here’s one thing I can assure for the Wildcats. Pretty much everyone look at them as mere ‘whipping boys’in the league. I wan’t to change that image. Under my command, my goal is to give our opponents a run for their money each game.”

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