PLAYING behind two of the best guards in the country today, not much was expected from Jio Jalalon before the Seaba Championship.
But when the dust settled, his performance didn't go unnoticed.
No less than Gilas head coach Chot Reyes heaped praise on the Star rookie, saying the improvement in Jalalon's play during the course of the tournament was one of the biggest gains for the hosts.
"It's hard to name an individual player (who stood out) because there are different players who stepped up in each game but I really liked the development of Jio Jalalon," said Reyes.
"I think that's a guy who's really gonna be special for this program."
For the tournament, the former Arellano star ranked second in both assists (5.2) and steals (2) to go alongside his averages of 7.2 points and 4.2 boards.
What's impressive is that he did it while averaging just 15 minutes while playing behind Jayson Castro and Terrence Romeo.
Jalalon was naturally elated by Reyes' kind words.
"Sobrang sarap pakinggan. Thank you, coach Chot na sinabihan mo ako ng ganun," said an elated Jalalon outside the Gilas dugout at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
"Siguro, yung hustle at defense ko. Nagki-create lang ako sa loob. ‘Di ko iniisip yung sarili ko, iinuuna ko yung mga kasama ko."
But it wasn't only Reyes who had praises for Jalalon.
His PBA rival turned Gilas backcourt partner in Romeo also spoke highly of the Gilas newcomer, citing his energy and hustle as his best traits.
"Grabe si Jio, talagang always ready, tapos lagi kang may makukuha sa kanya. Matalino maglaro, nandun yung hustle niya. Every time pumapasok si Jio, siya yung pinagmumulan ng hustle namin, so ang laki tulong niya sa team."
Those words only encouraged Jalalon to get better.
"Siguro, paghahandaan ko yan pagbalik ko ng practice. Babalik pa naman ako ng PBA, na-miss ko na rin yung team ko. Paghahandaan ko na lang pagbalik ko ng practice."