Aljun Melecio is going to be a problem in the UAAP

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“Tanginang Melecio yan!”

I heard people say this when I first watched Aljun Melecio play the Ateneo Blue Eaglets last UAAP Season 77 when he was still with the De La Salle Zobel program. Let me quiz you. Who were the people who said this line regarding the former Junior Archer? Were they…

A. La Sallians
B. Non- La Sallians
C. Both

If you answered A or B, you’re technically right. But that isn’t the 100% right answer. C, both, were the ones who immediately cursed Melecio as he played the Mike Nieto-led Blue Eaglets.

But why would both sides say such a thing? We’d understand Non-La Sallians saying that every time the Season 78 Juniors MVP would torch them, but even La Sallians? Versus the FEU Tamaraws in La Salle’s first game, we got ourselves a glimpse of why La Sallians, and Non La Sallians will curse Melecio every time he plays.

The Case of the La Sallians

La Sallians are among the most critical when it comes to how a player produces on the court. Thomas Torres was constantly berated during his time with the Green Archers. Even Jeron Teng’s decision making was lambasted constantly during his early goings with the team.

Melecio is no exception to this.

Even though he scored 29 points versus the Tamaraws, beneath all of that were some bone-headed plays that did not benefit the team in any way.

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This is one such play that could have easily gone very wrong for the Green Archers.

Melecio found himself isolated at the left wing with 11 seconds left in the shot clock. Still a lot of time left for him to compose himself, pull back, ask for even a simple pick and roll in order to create an easier shot for a teammate or himself. Instead, he looks at the ring, and immediately throws up the shot. Luckily for him, the shot managed to find nothing but net.

Shots like those won’t go in most of the time. Even Steph Curry, arguably the best shooter the world has ever seen, rarely takes take crazy, inefficient shots. He mostly relies on moving off the ball, patiently using screens in order to find the best position to throw up a bomb.

At times, Melecio doesn’t have the patience to try and wait things out. There were various instances versus the Tamaraws where he would throw up a shot with a defender on his face. In the times where he’d make the shots, he’d look like a complete beast. La Sallaians would be shaking their head in awe, left saying, “Tanginang Melecio yan.” However, when he’d miss these crazy attempts, La Sallians would be left scratching their heads shouting in protest, “Tanginang Melecio yan!”

It’s not just in the offensive end where Melecio ends up making decisions that leave his supporters up in arms. Defensively, he sleeps on his assignments at times leading to easy buckets for opponents. Even worse, there are instances where he ends up playing matador defense. He lazily tries to strip the ball away from an opponent, and in the process, he ends up getting left off the dust as the person he’s defending gets an open look for the easy deuce.

Given these factors, La Sallians have every reason to spew out expletives, both as a form of appreciation and complaint, when Melecio is on the floor. So what’s up with the Non La Sallians?

The Case of the Non La Sallians

The GIF above perfectly exemplifies why Non La Sallians curse Melecio. Yes, he made a terrible decision that should leave La Salle fans dumbfounded. But he made the shot. As ridiculous as these attempts may be, he still makes these. That’s just how good Aljun Melecio is.

But where Aljun ends up looking even better is when he follows the play Coach Aldin draws up and attempts an easy, in rhythm shot over the FEU defense.

Over the course of the game versus the Tamaraws, the Green Archers were noticeably running more Golden State Warriors-esque sets, a far cry from the “your turn, my turn” style of play La Salle did last year.

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In the set seen above, it starts off with a Ricci Rivero penetration, then a kick out to Kib Montalbo to the corner. When the ball gets to Montalbo, two things happen. First, Melecio immediately runs towards the top of the key. Baltazar misses setting the screen for Jasper Parker, but with how the play was flowing, it didn’t matter. The second is how Rivero immediately runs towards the left corner, which is needed movement in order for the defense to stay on its toes. As Melecio receives the ball, he needs just a second to gather himself, and then he proceeds to hit the jumper. Buckets.

This season, we can expect Coach Aldin Ayo to run more of the movement he installed in Letran since the Green Archers no longer have Jeron Teng to bail them out every time with his isolation wizardry. The younger Rivero could be that guy, but he isn’t polished enough just yet to take over games by his lonesome. Instead, La Salle will be going to Melecio. The former Juniors MVP may be a masterful isolation scorer, but when used as an off ball scorer just like how Mark Cruz was used in his Senior Year with Letran, he’s even deadlier.

One could even make an argument that Melecio is an even scarier option than Cruz. He’s the Ant-Man, except built with Aldin Ayo’s biceps, and the fearlessness and brashness of Russell Westbrook.

Melecio is an absolute chore to deal with on the defensive end. The way he uses screens when he decides to follow the instructions of his coaches is a headache for anyone. He may be small, but he’s quick, feisty, and tough. He has a strong body to fend off defenders, and he can easily score versus anybody. The sudden, isolation threes are heartbreaking. But the ones where he’s left free off good ball movements are the plays that really hurt. These are the ones that make Non La Sallians say, upset by the big basket by the small guard, “Tanginang Melecio yan!”

Melecio is a pain in the ass for everybody. Not just to those who have to deal with him as an opponent, but even those who have him as a teammate.

The bone-headed decisions he makes at times on the court lead to coaches scolding him since these bad decisions end up benefiting the other team. He’s talented, but he still has to learn how to be patient in order to be an even deadlier player.

However, there are instances where he makes bad decisions that end up hurting his opponents. In fact, when he makes good decisions, it’s sure those defending him will play. That’s just how talented Melecio is. He’s a deadly force of nature who has so much potential. Now, everyone seeing just a fraction of what he can do. The scary thing is how even though he still has some kinks that have to be fixed, he looks like one of the best player in the UAAP already.

I’m sure La Sallians will gladly take the bad with the good when it comes to Aljun. He’s a pain in the ass, yes. But he’s a pain in the ass they’ll gladly take on their team, because he deals more pain to his opponents more than he does to his own team.

Non La Sallians will continue to curse Aljun, but not out of jest. They curse him because they wish they had him on their teams. Sooner or later, he’ll grow. He’ll still be a pain, but only for the Non La Sallians this time around. For his team, he’ll be a positive, and that’s something the seven other teams will have to deal with once he gets there.

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