MANILA, Philippines – Former National University captain Gelo Alolino expressed faith and confidence in last year’s backup guard Jay Alejandro as he inherits a leadership role for UAAP Season 79.
The 22-year-old Alolino graduated last year but was back courtside on Wednesday, September 7 to watch the Bulldogs clamp on the UE Red Warriors, 72-66.
“With Jay it’s a matter of being a leader,” Alolino said in Filipino of Alejandro, who is now one of two leading veterans for NU. “I’m no longer there but they still are and I told Jay he needs to lead the team because that’s his job with Alfred (Aroga), to motivate him. But it’s up to them, it’s still a collective effort.”
Alejandro and veteran big man Alfred Aroga are co-captains for Season 79. Unlike previous seasons, there are expectations Alejandro has to meet as NU attempts a return trip to the Finals after winning the title in 2014.
“I want him to feel the responsibility he has to deliver on and off the court. So far I saw him even on the bench he was cheering on his teammates,” Alolino said of Alejandro.
The 21-year-old Alejandro, playing in his fourth year, is embracing the new test ahead of him.
“It’s a challenge for me because it’s the first time I’ll lead the team after years of having Gelo around,” he said after tallying 13 points in NU’s first win. “It’s time for me to step up. It’s a challenge to me to lift everyone up.”
Alejandro and Alolino have kept in constant touch throughout the year and Alolino, who has been busy with the PBA D-League and the Gilas cadet pool, dropped by practice days before the season began to offer advice.
“Whatever Jay saw in me, I hope he brings it to the team now,” Alolino said. “I expect both of them (Alejandro and Aroga) to carry heavier responsibilities. But I’m confident in those two. With Jay we always talk.”
“I may not be able to go to practices but we try to text. I’m always one text away,” he added.
It was Aroga who led NU to its first win on Wednesday with crucial baskets and rebounds in the final minutes. Watching this Bulldogs team sans Glenn Khobuntin, Troy Rosario, and himself, Alolino knows they still have what it takes to go all the way.
“I still have faith in the team,” Alolino said. “Coach Eric (Altamirano) and the management offer full support. It’s up to the players how they will follow instructions and deliver. But I have 100% support and belief in NU.”
NU’s next assignment is Ateneo on Sunday, September 11. – Rappler.com