ARELLANO coach Jerry Codiñera is the least surprised to see Chiefs guard Jiovani Jalalon included in the Gilas cadets team that will play in two major Southeast Asian tournaments this year.
Codiñera believes Jalalon deserves the spot in the final 12 of the team to the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) Championship this month and the SEA Games in Singapore in June, saying the 5-9 guard is a heady playmaker who can create for the team's armada of scorers.
“Nakita mo naman ‘yung team na ‘yung forward position, puro scorers. Isa sa mga nakita siguro sa kanya is ‘yung accurate siya sa mga pasa niya, mature maglaro at willing to learn,” Codiñera said.
Not a few were surprised by head coach Tab Baldwin’s decision to pick Jalalon over other celebrated players like Jeron Teng, Roi Sumang, and Mike Tolomia, even though the incoming junior cager stood out last season by winning a place in the NCAA Mythical Five in Season 90.
“Hindi siya nakita maglaro kasi underrated siya. Hindi naman kasi siya ‘yung nag-rate agad sa first year then all of a sudden, nag-jump from No. 200 to Mythical Five. Para bang imposible ‘yun pero nangyari,” said Codiñera.
His 22-year-old ward from Cagayan De Oro averaged 12.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 2.8 steals for the Chiefs last season on his way to bagging the Most Improved Player award.
Even Baldwin spoke highly of Jalalon, saying, “If you’re asking (about) Jiovani, he is lightning quick and he is a great defender. He’ll be a bonus having in the team at the guard position."
Codiñera, one of the 40 Greatest Players of the PBA, said the team is supportive of Jalalon’s stint with the national team, so much so that he has been excused from attending Arellano practices during his stint with the Gilas cadets.
“Baka mapagod kasi nagpapraktis rin siya sa KeraMix (PBA D-League). Kaya sabi ko, huwag na muna siya maglaro sa Arellano kasi baka sa ospital na siya damputin,” Codiñera said with a laugh.
“Malaking bagay sa kanya ‘yun at sa eskwela kasi bihira ang makapasok sa national team. Sabi ko sa kanya, paghandaan niya ‘yan at gawin mong priority ‘yan,” the Arellano coach added.