After spending some time away from the hardcourt to recover from a lateral collateral ligament injury in his knee, Jiovani Jalalon finally made his return to the Magnolia Hotshots, Wednesday night at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
It was a perfect return for the five-foot-nine guard from Cagayan de Oro, as he and the Hotshots reigned supreme over the hapless Kia Picanto, 124-77, to improved their card to 2-1 in the 2018 Philippine Cup.
“Maganda yung balik ko,” said Jalalon, whose team had sent Kia to their 15th straight loss. “‘Di naman sa minamaliit yung Kia pero yun yung start.
“Maganda yung pinakita namin ngayon. Sa second half maganda depensa namin.”
The 25-year-old even made his presence felt in his first game as a sophomore with 11 points, five rebounds and three assists — a performance commendable enough to earn Magnolia head coach Chito Victolero’s praise.
“Jio is a spark, especially in today’s game,” said the second-year head coach of Jalalon, who scored nine in the fourth quarter alone.
“We’re just waiting for Jio, at least kahit papaano ‘yung pag-hintay namin naging maganda naman.”
The former Arellano Chief, however, insisted that he has yet to regain his groove following the lengthy period of time he had spent lying on the sidelines.
“Sobrang nangangapa pa talaga ‘ko. Pang-apat ko pa lang na practice, tapos first game ko. So sobrang hirap. Nahirapan ako,” said the Gilas Pilipinas stalwart. “Iba na pala ‘pag nasa game na talaga. ‘Pag galing ka sa injury, mahirap.”
Asked on his own assessment as to where his health is right now, Jalalon said, “70 (percent). 70 na rin. Nandun pa lang.”
Still, Jalalon’s return only brings more positives for Magnolia. But a challenge lies ahead immediately for him, as his second game will be against the deadly NLEX Road Warriors this Sunday, January 14, still at the Big Dome.
“Paghahandaan namin yun.”
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