The “Defense Minister” Jerry Codiñera took over the helms of coaching the Arellano University Chiefs in the 90th season of the NCAA. After a forgettable stint with the University of the East Red Warriors, the PBA legend more than made up for it in the NCAA as he led the Chiefs to its first finals last season.
The Chiefs lost the opener of their NCAA Season 91 campaign in a drubbing at the hands of the Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers 78-61. In the loss, the team greatly struggled to find their groove after a steady opening quarter especially when the second unit came in. The team was already in the penalty as early as the seven minute mark of the second quarter that turned a 19-all deadlock to a 40-28 Heavy Bomber lead by halftime. “Overanxious and frustration, sama-sama na iyon,” the PBA legend told us. “They want to bring down the lead right away. Naging impatient sila siyempre puro mga bago.”
The team right now is still recuperating from the loss of seven players. Those seven players contributed 45 points per game, more than half of the 86 point production the team had a season ago. “Bumaba ang production namin since nawalan ng balance yung team. Seven players ang nawala. It’s a big adjustment,” Codiñera said. “Ang bulk ng scoring nasa first [squad] pero ang laki ng nawala. That’s my predicament right now. We have to get those numbers and try to distribute the load.”
Moreover, running the triangle system has its perks once the players master the system but with seven rookies in the team, the system also has its downside, “Mahirap. That’s a big challenge on my part. Pag maraming pumasok na rookies ang hirap. Especially when you’re running the triangle system, it takes two years to develop that. Even sa PBA it takes two years, more so if you are a college player.”
To add to the early struggles the young team is facing, the focal figures of the team, namely SEA Games gold medalist Jio Jalalon and foreign student-athlete Dioncee Holts, are struggling with health and size respectively.
“Si Dioncee [Holts] siyempre small forward siya and we have to make an adjustment along the way. We have to make adjustments na lang,” the Defense Minister remarked on his big man. Jalalon though is still struggling due to a muscle tear on his shoulder. “Injured si Jiovanni [Jalalon]. If you noticed, hindi na siya naglaro nung sa SEA Games, parang one game lang ata siya nababad. May muscle tear siya sa kanyang shoulder.”
“Malaking bagay si Jio [Jalalon] because he is our number one point guard. I hope he gets well against Lyceum. He’s doing rehab on his right shoulder kasi. Nahahamper yung jumpshot niya, naging kapos, ” he added.
Fortunately, the trade-off to the injury Jalalon has right now was that Jio came out as a better player according to his mentor. “Nasha-share niya with his teams yung mga natutunan niya sa Gilas. He motivates his teammates. He became more mature and very patient.”
After a fantasy season last year, Coach Codiñera and his squad are hoping to reach even greater heights. However, they have to go through a lot of obstacles both on and off the court to provide another milestone for the Arellano University community.