Alejandro, Salem exit; Menina, JLC enter for NU Bulldogs

Alejandro, Salem exit; Menina, JLC enter for NU Bulldogs
Versatile swingman John Lloyd Clemente and heady guard Darrell Menina are nothing but much-welcome additions for NU

For the very first time in his long coaching career, Jamike Jarin missed out on the Final Four in last year’s UAAP Season 80 Men’s Basketball Tournament.

A longtime champion coach for Ateneo de Manila High School and then a winning mentor for San Beda College, Jarin experienced something he had never experienced before in his first year in National University.

Even with all that Mythical selection J-Jay Alejandro did, the Bulldogs finished outside of the playoff picture and finished sixth out of eight in the standings.

For Jarin, it doesn’t matter that he missed out on the Final Four for the very first time in his long coaching career. “I never thought about that. Para sa akin, hindi naman importante yung ganun ko,” he told reporters.

He then continued, “What’s important is NU and I wanna take full responsibility for not barging into the Final Four.”

Still, the 47-year-old mentor said he and his boys remain upbeat about what’s ahead of them – even with the graduation of stalwarts Alejandro and Matt Salem. “Don’t get me wrong ha. We’re sad about missing the Final Four (last year),” he said.

He then continued, “But you have to look at the bigger picture. I think there are better things to be happy about.”

One thing making Jarin happy is the big-time talent coming in for NU next season. As he put it, “We’re got some good talent coming in. Shane Menina, Shaun Ildefonso, they’re doing their residency then Josh Sinclair will be coming back from injury. John Lloyd Clemente will also be eligible for college.”

He then continued, “We just have good talent coming in.”

Menina is a heady guard who was a key cog in Mapua University’s back-to-back playoff appearances; Ildefonso is the son of Philippine basketball legend Danny Ildefonso and proved himself as an inside presence in his time as a Blue Eaglet; and Sinclair was on the rise two years ago before suffering an ACL injury.

The biggest name to watch, though, may very well be Clemente who terrorized the UAAP Juniors as a versatile swingman. He has long been said to be a college-ready player.

Along with the recruits and returnees, the Bulldogs are also expecting continued development from their promising rookies in Enzo Joson and Jonas Tibayan. “To see Enzo Joson starting games and Jonas Tibayan also starting and performing, that makes you really excited,” Jarin said.

That’s not even mentioning 6-foot-10 Senegalese reinforcement Issa Gaye who may very well be one of the top foreign student-athletes come Season 81.

In the end, NU may have lost Alejandro and Salem, but it is welcoming several talents who are not only more than capable of replacing them, but surpassing them even.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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