PLAYING against the PBA’s most popular team in a highly anticipated annual Christmas classic for the first time is already enough reason to get thrilled.
But Jio Jalalon is also looking forward to another first when Star collides with Barangay Ginebra in the Philippine Cup on Sunday night: his first matchup against college rival Scottie Thompson in the pro ranks.
“Sobrang excited kasi syempre pag sinabi na Manila Clasico, sobrang daming tao,” Jalalon said in a short chat with SPIN.ph after practice two days before the awaited showdown at the Philippine Arena.
“At maganda sigurong laban ‘to kasi nandyan din si Scottie,” he was quick to add. “Matagal ko na hindi nakalaban si Scottie, ngayon na lang uli.”
Jalalon and Scottie Thompson engaged each other in numerous battles for three years when Arellano and University of Perpetual Help faced off in the NCAA, trying to prove who the best point guard in college was between them.
Jalalon made the NCAA his playground after Thompson made the jump to the pros last year, before the former followed suit this season.
Asked if he saw Thompson as his barometer on being the best in college, Jalalon played down the notion.
“Hindi ko naman naisip yun, pero siguro challenge ko lang yung sarili ko sa kanya,” Jalalon, the pride of Cagayan de Oro City, said of his fellow Mindanao native in Thompson, who hails from Digos City.
The competitive fire died down a bit as both playmakers earlier declared their desire to be teammates at Ginebra.
Jalalon eventually went to the Hotshots, setting the stage for another battle between college basketball’s premier point guards.
Jalalon tries to help the Hotshots grab a fourth win in six games for a share of second place, while Thompson hopes to lead the Gin Kings back on track after falling below .500 at 2-3.