AFTER being swept by the San Beda College Red Lions last year, the Arellano University Chiefs are ready for another crack at the title when the 91st season of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball tournament starts on June 27 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
With a line-up almost the same as last year, the Chiefs are one of the favorites to challenge six-peat seeking Red Lions. Among those expected to lead the Chiefs are Dioncee Holts from the United States and Southeast Asian Games campaigner Jiovanne Jalalon. Veterans Alfred Gumaru and Zachary Nicholls will support them.
Coach Jerry Codiñera said that even without John Pinto, Prince Caperal and Kieth Agovida, who already finished their terms, the Chiefs still have a strong chance to become champions this year.
“Although we lost some key players, I’m still confident of our chances this year because we have some of the core from last year’s campaign who are still playing,” said Codiñera, one of the 25 great players being inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame.
Codiñera said Jalalon would play a key role in their campaign after he served as the centerpiece of the Chiefs’ freewheeling style, which was the squad’s best performance in the league a season ago.
Jalalon was part of last year’s Mythical First Team and the Gilas Cadet squad that captured the gold medal in the 28th SEA Games in Singapore.
“I’ve played for the country before and the experience of wearing a uniform bearing our flag helped me to become a better player. And I know it will make him a better player “ Codiñera said of Jalalon.”
Last year, Arellano was the best offensive team with an average of 85.7 points a game.
“Definitely, we’ll try to tighten our defense a bit this season without slowing down our offense,” said Codiñera, who was given the nickname “Defense Minister” during his PBA days.