Ask anyone on who they think is synonymous to the modern-day National University basketball program, for sure these five names will come up.
Ray Ray Parks, Troy Rosario, Emmanuel Mbe, Alfred Aroga, and, of course, Gelo Alolino.
Coming from the highly-regarded recruitment class of 2011, Gelo Alolino had to earn the trust of long-time mentor Eric Altamirano for the team’s floor general spot as he was recruited together with fellow 2010 Nokia U-16 National Basketball team member Cedric Labing-isa. Alolino more than earned the trust of Altamirano in starting in all but five UAAP regular season games in his career, 65 of 70 games.
In those games, National U’s Smart Elite ambassador posted a career average of 9.3 points, 4 rebounds, and 3.6 rebounds in 27.8 minutes of action. More importantly, he is part of the quintet that turned the local collegiate basketball landscape around as Jhocson Street turned from being a basketball cellar to a hotbed.
A big game player, Altamirano reflected on his floor general in saying that, “Gelo is the type of player who loves the ball come endgame.” But what impressed the NU mentor was how Alolino was able to bring together the team. “He is our leader. Gelo is a proven player and he not only leads us in the court but also outside.”
Next season’s elder statesman, Alfred Aroga, added that Alolino is a workhorse during the games and in practices. “We go where Gelo takes us. He is our leader and he leads by example,” the foreign student-athlete said about their captain. “He communicates well with us on the court and Gelo always finds us when we are open.”
For Alolino, he is forever grateful and blessed to have been mentored by Altamirano in saying, “I couldn’t thank Coach Eric enough. Hindi ko talaga alam paano siya papasalamatan,” he said holding his emotions. “From nung National Team with sila Kevin [Ferrer], Kiefer [Ravena], Mike [Tolomia], and Jeron [Teng], he really helped us a lot in terms of maturity.”
Being recruited out of University of Perpetual Help System, he also credits the former National Youth Team head coach for teaching him the value of humility and maturity. “Not just on-court, off-court he gives us life talks, bible study. Si Coach he teached us a lot. Makikita mo naman yung perspective niya as a person,” he said.
“Sobrang thankful ako na naging coach ko siya. I-checherish ko talaga yung five years na nakapaglaro ako sa kanya.”
Moreover, he will forever be thankful to have been part of National University. During his five-year stay with the 115 year old institution, Alolino aided the Bulldogs to five straight Final Four appearances. This was highlighted by ending National U’s 60-year Men’s Basketball Championship drought in the 77th season of the UAAP.
“Yun yung lone championship namin after 60 years. Hindi rin ganun kadili yun kasi madami kaming pinagdaanan na do-or-die situations,” the Smart Elite ambassador reflected about it. “Tapos Ateneo twice-to-beat then yung Game 1 nanalo din yung kabila [FEU]. Ang hirap ng pinagdaanan namin nun.”
He then added that that moment that he and his teammates will never forget for the rest of their lives. “We talked about that kanina and sabi nila after ten years magkikita-kita kami ulit. We’ll look for the banner that has ‘the Champion of Season 77.’ After 60 years…,” again fighting-off tears. “Until now, pagnaiisip namin na nagawa namin yun sobrang [laking] honor. Memorable sa amin yung time na yun.”
Looking forward, Alolino admitted that he is looking forward to being in the Philippine Basketball Association one day. But his top priority nowadays is to graduate with a degree since he only has four subjects remaining in his academic slate.
Next season, with one cycle of recruits ending for them last Sunday – as Coach Altamirano puts it-, a new era of NU basketball is set to start. For the incoming recruits, it will be hard to even match what Alolino has given to the community. But if there’s one student-athlete they should pattern themselves to, it should be him as he exemplified hard work, humility, and balance.
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