ARELLANO top gun Jiovani Jalalon admitted getting star-struck on the first day he practiced as part of Gilas Pilipinas’ growing training pool.
And that’s understandable for a guy whose two basketball idols were both on and off the court of the Moro Lorenzo gym on Monday night.
Jalalon went up against Ginebra’s LA Tenorio during the scrimmage where coach Tab Baldwin pittedthe regular Gilas members against the young Gilas cadets.
And while he was going toe-to-toe with the Ginebra point guard, watching on the sidelines was Talk ‘N Text resident playmaker Jayson Castro.
Jalalon said it was a thrill being on the same team with the two players to whom he’s trying to pattern his game.
“Sobrang saya ko kasi binabantayan ko 'yung idol ko (Tenorio). Tapos andiyan pa si Kuya Jayson,” said the 22-year-old native of Cagayan de Oro.
“China-challenge ko lang yung sarili ko (kanina) para bumuo rin 'yung loob ko kasi nga andito yung dalawang idol ko.”
Jalalon said it was deputy Gilas coach Josh Reyes who informed him of the invitation extended to him by Gilas mentor Tab Baldwin to join the national team in their Monday night scrimmages as part of its training for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Baldwin and Jalalon – along with Reyes – are not new to each other, having worked together as part of the Gilas cadets team which won the basketball gold in last year’s Southeast Asian Games in Singapore.
He’s the latest member of that gold-winning cadet team to join the Gilas training pool, joining Kiefer Ravena, Kevin Ferrer, and Mac Belo.
Jalalon said playing with Gilas – even if it was only in scrimmages - was indeed, a great opportunity. At the same time, he said the training also reunited him with his fellow cadet teammates.
“Bihira na lang kasi kami nagkikita, kaya para masayang reunion ito para sa amin,” said the all-around playmaker, who still has a year left of eligibility with the Arellano Chiefs.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t say with certainty if he’s now going to regularly Gilas’ weekly training owing to his stint with Caida Tiles in the ongoing PBA D-League.
“Basta pag libre ako, pupunta ako lagi rito,” said the soft-spoken playmaker.