Arellano U coach Jerry Codiñera expects top playmaker Jiovani Jalalon to get his usual groove back on Friday when the Chiefs take on the San Beda Red Lions in the 92nd NCAA seniors basketball tourney at The Arena in San Juan City.
Arguably the finest guard in the collegiate ranks today, the 5-foot-11 Jalalon has been on a shooting slump amidst what Codiñera considered as the “killer stretch” in their first-round campaign, giving the Chiefs ample reason to be worried about.
In their 79-89 setback dealt by defending champion Letran last week, Jalalon scored a team-high 17 points but struggled from the field, missing 14 of his 20 attempts while hardly getting any rest in the second half. He also had 11 assists, three rebounds and a steal.
The Chiefs bounced back on Tuesday behind a 96-75 victory over erstwhile unbeaten Mapua but Jalalon’s offensive struggles continued, missing his first 11 attempts before making three from his last five to finish with eight points on top of nine assists and seven rebounds.
Codiñera, however, is keeping his faith on Jalalon as the Chiefs go up against the Red Lions, still unbeaten after five starts.
“He’ll be okay come San Beda,” he said of the former Sinag Pilipinas standout. “With his smarts and experience with Gilas and based on other tournaments we joined, he will be ready.”
Jalalon earlier admitted that some of his struggled could be caused by the critics he has been receiving following their loss to the Knights that stopped their two-game winning streak.
Codiñera, named to the pro league’s Top 25 players, knows Jalalon is bound to redeem himself on a big way, saying: Kapag veteran ka, you can always find a way to step up your game.”
Aside from dealing with Jalalon’s recent woes, Codiñera is aware of the tough task at hand against the “versatile” Red Lions, who are coming off a dominant 88-70 victory over another title contender Perpetual Help on Tuesday.
“Big game kasi iba na ‘yung team ng San Beda,” he said. “They’re faster, quicker and very versatile mga players nila. They can play 2 to 3 positions tapos magkaka-height pa. They also have the speed.”
Asked what they need to do in order to slow down the Red Lions’ onslaught, Codiñera stressed: “We just have to be careful in taking care of the ball. Mabawasan ang mga turnovers namin. Hopefully, marami kaming maging possession.” – By Jerome Lagunzad
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