Impressed Cone says Star rookie Jio Jalalon 'could turn out to be special'
Rookie Jio Jalalon impressed in his PBA debut with Star. Jaime Campos

TIM Cone wasn’t around at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Sunday night for the opening match of the 2016 PBA Philippine Cup.

But he sure was a curious spectator as he watched defending champion San Miguel fight back for a 96-88 win over Star.

Although awed by the way the new-look Hotshots played and impressed by the debut of rookie guard Jio Jalalon for Star,  the multi-titled mentor still reserved his best compliment for June Mar Fajardo and the Beermen, who he labeled as the team to beat again in the all-Filipino conference.

“SMB is so incredibly confident. No doubt, the team to beat,” said Cone, who made the remark through his Twitter account @manilacone.

[See New season, same, old story as SMB frustrates Star with big finishing kick]

Behind Fajardo and Alex Cabagnot, the Beermen came back from a 77-86 deficit midway through the fourth period to frustrate the Hotshots and deny Chito Victolero his first win as Star coach.

Fajardo and Cabagnot engineered a huge 15-0 run to put San Miguel on top for good, 92-86.

The three-time league MVP finished with 25 points and 16 rebounds, while Cabagnot added 22 and had eight assists.

Cone though, believes Star also showed potential especially with Jalalon playing well alongside new recruit Paul Lee.

“Star looks good. Jalalon could turn out to be special,” added Cone, who recently steered Ginebra to its first ever championship in eight years after winning the Governors Cup opposite Meralco.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos