Tired and weary following a non-stop, high-level of play the past two weeks, the Arellano U Chiefs try to gain a much-needed recovery when they go up to Baguio City for their annual training camp ahead of the 92nd NCAA seniors basketball tourney that gets going on June 25.
The Chiefs had an impressive showing this summer, conquering the Fr. Martin’s Cup and finishing bridesmaid to powerhouse La Salle in the 10th FilOil Flying V Preseason Premier Cup that underscored their readiness for the NCAA cage wars.
Although he’s pleased with the Chiefs’ sustained development under his watch for the third straight year, Arellano U coach Jerry Codiñera knows his wards need to recharge their aching bodies more than anything else.
“Sa Baguio na kami magte-training. Aalis kami on (June) 17th tapos babalik kami ng Maynila on (the) 20th. More of rest and recreation lang naman ‘yun sa mga bata,” he told FOX Sports in a phone interview on Tuesday.
“Every year before the start of the season, talagang pumapanik kami sa Baguio. This time, pagod na pagod ang mga bata kaya I hope in three days, makapag pahinga rin sila du’n.”
The Chiefs, with the presence of top backcourt duo of Gilas cadet member Jiovani Jalalon and vastly-improving Kent Salado, are considered by many as one of the top threats to the defending champion Letran Knights’ reign.
And Codiñera, 49, is soaking it all in. But that doesn’t mean Arellano U should rest on its laurels.
“I’m thankful na nano-notice na recently ang Arellano with our buildup. We’ll use that as a motivation. It goes to show that we have to continue working hard and not rely on what we have achieved. We just have to be ready always. You don’t what they gonna throw at you. You don’t know how they will prepare for you,” he said.
Aside from Jalalon and Salado, the Chiefs have enough tools to contend with the league’s perennial top guns courtesy of big man Lervin Flores, veteran gunner Zach Nicholls, wingman Brylle Meca, backup guard Donald Gumaru, serviceable slotmen Allen Enriquez and Julius Cadavis and Fil-Am center Dioncee Holts.
But Codiñera knows victories won’t be served on a silver platter.
“May mga piyesa talaga tayo sa team pero kailangan pa rin pagtrabahuhan ang bawat panalo. Hindi ibibigay ng bawat team sa NC ‘yun kaya kakayurin mo pa rin talaga,” he said.
“Iba na rin kasi ang tournament ‘pag NCAA na. While we defeated some other teams in the Fr. Martin’s, talagang dikdikan pa rin ang naging laban,” added Codiñera, who has led the Chiefs to back-to-back Final Four trips including a breakthrough finals appearance two years ago when they were foiled by the San Beda Red Lions in two games.
Asked what’s the Chiefs’ initial goal, Codiñera said: “Makapag Final Four na muna kami. Ayaw muna naming tumingin ng malayo. From there, titignan namin kung hanggang saan kami makakaabot.” – By Jerome Lagunzad
Follow this writer on Twitter: @JLFoxSports