After an up and down career with the Arellano Chiefs, Kent Salado is now hoping to take his talents to the Philippine Basketball Association.
The fearless point guard shared his intentions to join the professional ranks after the Chiefs ended their NCAA Season 95 campaign on a sour note on Friday.
Salado, though, is ready to move on and is excited to take his game to the next level and become a professional basketball player.
"I'm going to apply for the draft. Hopefully, I'll get lucky," Salado said.
Despite pouring in 22 points in his last collegiate game, Salado could not lift his team past the JRU Heavy Bombers on Friday as Arellano, this season's host school, finished the season with a dismal 4-14 record. He was disappointed his team didn't have a better showing.
"We were the hosts and we're at the bottom. Before, we used to compete so it's a bit hard to accept that," Salado said in Filipino.
The quick-footed guard immediately made a strong impression when he first came into the NCAA five years ago. He was a blur, operating on breakneck speed complete with a finishing ability that can rival any lead guard. Salado, alongside Arellano legend Jio Jalalon, became an instant backcourt sensation. They were the perfect storm of scoring, quickness, pesky defense, and toughness.
In 2016, Arellano reached the finals against San Beda. The Chiefs lost in two hard-fought games despite the gallant efforts of their 1-2 punch. Jalalon would eventually go on to the PBA while Salado was ready to take the reigns and lead the Chiefs on his own.
"That finals is hard to forget. That was a great feeling. There were a lot of strong teams and we were the ones who got in the finals," Salado said.
But what came next for Salado was a test of patience and endurance. Instead of becoming a bonafide superstar and the unequivocal leader, he ended up trying to recover from a hobbled knee that nearly took two years away from his college career. He first endured an MCL injury on his right knee during the tail end of Season 93. After recuperating, he immediately tore his ACL on the same knee in a 2018 PBA D-League game, forcing him to sit out Season 94.
When he returned fully recovered the following year, Salado's focus wasn't about trying to prove that he hasn't lost a step. His primary concern was more of reinserting himself into a different team and a new coach. After a long tenure under Jerry Codiñera, the Chiefs acquired Cholo Martin to man the sidelines.
"When I came back, the coach was different," said the 5-foot-9 standout, who started playing again over the summer. "We all had to adjust to the system of coach Cholo. Coach Jerry spent a long time in Arellano so the others had a harder time getting to know the plays."
From being a young star, Salado suddenly became a veteran who had to lead an inexperienced but promising squad after he returned from his injuries.
"That's what I told myself first - I need to gain the trust of my teammates," he explained as a number of Arellano players came from Team B and transferees to replace the old team. "We revamped. I told them that I would do my best so that they could adjust to my game and I could adjust to theirs."
"For me, there was pressure because when you play with new guys, they don't know your game unlike before," he added.
This season was a tough learning process for Salado and the new-look Chiefs. They endured heartbreaking losses, as well as blowouts, more than they celebrated victories. Despite the early exit, however, Salado put up impressive numbers for a player returning from two major injuries. He put up 16.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.6 steals in his final year. And the graduating guard is hoping that Arellano's transition period is over so that the Chiefs can finally return to their glory days.
"Maybe next year, they'd have adjusted already. They'll improve," said the 24-year-old veteran.