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Sollano’s commitment to Ayo’s vision

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“Our rookie veteran” is what Letran head coach Aldin Ayo fondly calls his starting center.

21-year-old Jomari Sollano is vastly experienced compared to his rookie batchmates in the current season of the NCAA. However, compared to the other big men of the other squads, the 6’4 Sollano is the smallest as all the other teams have centers that are 6’6 or taller.

Last Thursday, the Knights faced a tough task in facing the University of Perpetual Help DALTA (UPHSD) Altas. Besides triple-double machine Earl Scottie Thompson, the Aric del Rosario-mentored squad had two foreign students-athletes manning the paint: the 6’8 Bright Akhuetie and 6’9 Prince Eze. “Sa umpisa nakaka-pressure kasi dati nung nakalaro ko siya sa Filoil parang ang lakas ni Akhuetie. Talagang parang kumpleto,” he said about the first time he saw Akhuetie during the Filoil tournament,a game they lost 59-47. Akhuetie had a double-double in that game with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Moreover, Jomar had to make big adjustments as he moved to Manila. “First time ko nakalaro dito sa Manila nun. Talagang grabe ang adjustment na ginawa ko,” he said with a smile. Fortunately, the young center had adjusted well because of the culture set by rookie coach Aldin Ayo. “Buti naman mabilis lang at naka-adjust ako dahil kayla coach.”

Jomari Sollano said that prior to their marquee showdown against the Altas last Thursday, which they won 78-69, he said that the Knights had a day-off but the team’s frontline are called to review tapes of their opponents. “Bago ang laro, pahinga lang kami. Pero kaming mga big man, lagi pinapatawag. Ako, si Felix [Apreku], [Rey] Publico, si [Christian] Balagasay, halos lahat kami na big man,” he said. “Tapos tinuro sa amin kung paano depensahan ang mga tulad ni [Bright] Akhuetie. Tulad nung kay Akhuetie, pinakita sa amin na malakas siya sa kanan.”

Sollano led the frontline of the Knights in limiting Eze and Akhuetie to a combined 17 points and 15 rebounds. Far from their averages. Moreover, the two Nigerian student-athletes combined for four turnovers, all atributted can be attributed to the active hands of Sollano. “Sinadya namin na may tapik lagi pag rumi-rebound ang kalaban. Ang laro nga namin magulo nga. Kasi nung first half, nadadala kami sa laro ng Perpetual. Kelangan yung laro, dalhin namin sa laro namin,” he recalled. The move also helped disrupt any transition plays the Altas were trying to do.

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Sollano’s commitment to Ayo’s vision    Sollano is currently averaging 11.4 points and 5.6 rebounds. Moreover, he plays a team-high 28.4 minutes per game. When asked about what the team does for conditioning as the team plays constant full court pressure on defense and constant screens and motions on offense, he said that they just do normal training sessions. “Parehas lang ginagawa namin. Siguro kami kasi may extra takbo pa pagkatapos ng ensayo,” he told us about their training regimens.

What is surprising in his game is his knack for the ball. Even at just 6’4, Jomar utilizes his impecable timing in blocking shots as he is averaging 1.4 blocks per game, good for fifth in the league. In addition, majority of his blocks come from taller, bulkier opponents. He said that his experience playing for the University of Southern Philippines Foundation in the CESAFI, a league that also has a huge number of foreign student-athletes, helped in his development. “Oo naman. Kasi sa Cebu karamihan din ng mga binabantayan ko mga foreigner. Kaya pagdating ko dito, may alam na rin ako kung gaano sila kalakas at kung papaano ang laro nila.”

Sollano and the Knights will look to keep their streak alive as they face Dioncee Holts and the Arellano University Chiefs tomorrow, July 31 at 4:00pm at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan City.

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