Salado takes the wheel in Chiefs’ rougher road to playoffs

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MY TURN. Kent Salado will be in the driver’s seat as Arellano moves forward without Jiovani Jalalon.

HOW’D THEY DO LAST SEASON? 14-4, 2nd place (runner-up)

YES, THEY’RE STILL HERE: Kent Salado, Lervin Flores

WELCOME TO THE FAMILY: N/A

GOOD LUCK ON FUTURE ENDEAVORS: Donald Gumaru, Dioncee Holts, Jiovani Jalalon

It could never be said enough, so it should be said again – Arellano University has lost perhaps its greatest-ever basketball player.

And head coach Jerry Codinera is not holding back in expressing how hard it is to move on from Jiovani Jalalon.

Asked about the loss of “The Bus Driver,” he answered, “Nako. Diyos ko po. Talagang rumupok yung team kasi alam mo naman si Jiovani, he can make or unmake a game. It’s really a big adjustment for us.”

Indeed, Jalalon’s loss was greatly felt in the recently-concluded 2017 Filoil Flying V Preseason Tournament where the Chiefs, the runners-up in 2016, couldn’t even hack their way into the next round in 2017. “Second kami last year, pero ininda talaga namin yung loss ni Jio. Nagkaroon ng imbalance sa team,” Codinera lamented.

With “The Bus Driver” gone, “Conductor” Kent Salado was thrust into his role.

That was all well and good, but no one was there to do the things Salado once did. “We’re still hoping na yung mga papalit, kahit man lang at least decent na pagpalit gagawin nila. Mailayo man lang namin sa pakiramdam yung absence ni Jalalon,” the head coach said.

Now, Codinera’s plea is for his other guys to begin being THE guys. “Yung second-stringers namin, kailangan talagang mag-catch up at magkaroon ng kumpyansa. Wala kaming ganun kalalim na manpower so we’ll just have to do with what we have,” he shared.

In his view, his other guys are, at the very least, trying. “Si (Kraniel) Villoria, si (Michael) Canete, si (Archie) Concepcion, si (Renz) Alcoriza, we have four guys who can help the team. Okay naman sila nung preseason, effective sila, kailangan na lang ng consistency,” he said.

Still, Arellano will ride or die with Salado in the driver’s seat. “Buti na lang, nandyan pa si Salado. I think he’ll be ready and I think he’ll get there,” the mentor said.

The good news is the incoming fourth-year guard is ready and raring for his first-ever foray as the main man. “Para sa akin, mahihirapan ako, pero paghihirapan ko lang ang lahat. Gagawin ko lalo yung kung anong magagawa ko sa court,” he said.

Same as his coach, however, Salado says his teammates actually have the taller task in front of them. “Binababad ako ni coach Jerry. Minsan, pagod na pagod ako talaga kaya kailangan talagang mag-step up yung iba,” he said.

Nonetheless, the even better news for the faithful over in Legarda is their boys rang off four consecutive victories to end the preseason with a bang. “It was a good preseason. It was an eye-opener sa mga bagay na we have to do more, do less,” Codinera said.

He then continued, “Nevertheless, we are on the right track.”

And the head coach is only hoping they can build on that momentum once they get on the big stage and under the bright lights of the NCAA. “Modest ang goal namin. We just want to do better every game. We’ll take it one game at a time and continue to build,” he said.

Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.



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