Surprising Arellano University Chiefs

Give And Go
Michael Angelo S. Murillo

Posted on July 29, 2014

IN THE RUN-UP to Season 90 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) many pundits and observers (including this writer) had the Arellano University Chiefs as among the teams who will give the field a good fight. But while almost everybody saw them to be competitive, very few, if at all, I believe saw the Chiefs impressively competing the way they have been up to this stage of the tournament.

Including its 97-85 win over the University of Perpetual Help Altas on Saturday, Arellano has already won five games as against one loss. The victory put the Chiefs in solo second place, behind league-leading and defending champions San Beda College Red Lions (5-0), who incidentally dealt Arellano the lone blemish in its record.

Arellano’s current 5-1 card is just three wins shy of its total record in Season 89 where the Chiefs wound up with an 8-10 record, good for sixth place. It is also the team’s best start since entering the league in 2009 and has put it in a good position to make its push for a first-ever final four appearance.

No doubt doing it for the Legarda-based dribblers is their transformation into a two-way machine under new coach Jerry Codiñera. The Philippine Basketball Association legend has done a solid job so far of laying down a system where the team collectively is flourishing on both ends of the court to much success as we are now seeing.

Offensively the Chiefs have been the best in the league to date, averaging 85.8 points per game, led by the 15 markers per of forward Levi Hernandez. They are showing much balance and range on offense with four other players, apart from Hernandez, scoring in double digits -- Jiovani Jalalon (12.7 points), Keith Agovida (12.3 points), Nard Pinto (12.2 points) and Dioncee Holts (10.3 points).

And such offensive situation has made Arellano’s attack all the more potent as it gets to make the opposing defense think with the variety of ways it gets the ball to the basket.

On the other end of the court, the Chiefs are not doing bad either. Currently, they are allowing their opponents to score 79.5 points, still pretty high and indicative of how they still have to polish some things in their defensive setup here and there.

But with a coach who pushes, and actually made a name for himself in the biggest stage here in the country of playing, defense, and having the necessary pieces to make things happen, they are only bound to get better in it.

Interestingly the Chiefs decided not to compete in any preseason tournament. That move evidently is doing wonders for them as the tack afforded them the time to have a better grasp of who they are as a team under a new coach and system and with all the additions. It also gave them that element of surprise which is still very much in effect as the rest of the field continues to grapple with the “puzzle” they are throwing.

Whether Arellano gets to sustain its surprising run in the NCAA tournament, we will just have to see. It is still early in the season and, indeed, a lot can still happen. The Chiefs’ strong start, though, should only serve it in good stead as they develop momentum and confidence for the bigger battles down the road. And provided they get to maintain, or even build on, the “full” attack they are showing, Legarda gets to see basketball season there extended.

NCAA games tomorrow at the San Juan Arena: 2 p.m. -- Perpetual Help vs. Lyceum; 4 p.m. -- Letran vs. Emilio Aguinaldo College.

Michael Angelo S. Murillo is part of BusinessWorld’s editorial staff and a contributor for the paper.