JARED Dillinger knows it will be hard to fill the shoes left by the now-retired Jimmy Alapag as the acknowledged leader of Meralco.
To take over the spot vacated by the 38-year-old Alapag, now a member of the team’s coaching staff after officially retiring during the off-season, meant leading by example, according to Dillinger.
And the veteran Fil-Am guard said he’s not at that level yet.
“I need to focus on getting better. I need to focus on myself first before I can really put myself as a leader of the team,” said Dillinger after his first game back from a hamstring injury in the Bolts' PBA Philippine Cup debut on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“So I got to perform, I got to lead by example before trying to just be a leader and start making speeches. You got to earn the respect first before anything else.”
Dillinger, 32, scored two points and had three rebounds in limited playing time suiting up for the Bolts for the first time since going out with the leg injury during the semifinals of the Governors Cup.
As one of the most senior in a team which overachieved last conference when it made the finals for the first time, Dillinger said he, along with veterans Reynel Hugnatan and Cliff Hodge – who are co-captains of the Bolts – need to pick up the cudgels for the franchise.
“We have to collectively step up and try to do our part a little bit harder in terms of leadership,” said Dillinger. “Jimmy (Alapag) is the kind of guy who can have zero points but his presence alone really calms every one down.”
“Having a guy like Jimmy Alapag not being there anymore, I think we have to collectively step up, not just one guy because jimmy is kind of irreplaceable.”
Dillinger said he began practicing for the Bolts just two days ago, the reason for his limited minutes in Meralco’s 86-84 loss to Blackwater.
That and coupled by the team having six players that really haven’t been part of the rotation before explains the 21 turnovers committed by the Bolts as against the 12 by the Elite.
But that shouldn’t be an excuse for the Bolts to drop their opening match, Dillinger said.
“It will take a little bit of time to adjust but we got to be ready for the next game,” said Dillinger. “We really need to step up, and we really need to start growing up real fast. It’s the nature of the business, we’re professional ball players and not kids.”