COUNT Meralco as one of the teams to beat in the coming PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
Having a tall import whom coach Norman Black describes as a good inside player and with the acquisition of another big man in Raymond Almazan from a recent trade, the Bolts have become taller than they were before.
According to Black, the presence of import Gani Lawal and Almazan makes Meralco’s frontline more formidable and competitive in the import-laced conference set to start on Sunday.
“We are very happy to bring Almazan into the Meralco team because at 6’8 we feel he is one of the best big men in the league,” said Black, stressing that size has been one of the things they have been lacking.
The problem on team’s relatively small lineup, according to Black, was felt most specially in the All-Filipino conference.
The Bolts acquired Almazan from Rain or Shine in a recent trade in exchange for Meralco’s pair of first-round picks in 2019 and 2021.
“We understand that we are paying a premium price for the trade but the way we look at it Almazan is just replacing our first-round pick next year,” said Black.
“Our import Gani Lawal is a pretty solid player who plays very well inside the paint,” said Black. “With the addition of Almazan it just makes our interior that much stronger and gives us a chance to be more competitive.”
Aside from their import and Almazan, five more Bolts stand at least 6-foot-4 and above, making them a tough opponent indeed in the Commissioner’s Cup.
These five are Ranidel de Ocampo (6’6”), Reynel Hugnatan (6’5”), Jared Dillinger (6’4”), KG Canaleta (6’6”) and Bryan Faundo (6’6”).
Even the Bolts’ guards and forwards are all able who could be unstoppable on any given night. These are Mike Tolomia, Baser Amer, John Pinto, Chris Newsome and Cliff Hodge.
The Bolts failed to make the playoff round in the first conference this season, having won only three of 11 outings. They defeated Blackwater, Talk ‘N Text and NorthPort.
Prior to that however, the Bolts made back-to-back finals appearances in the Governors’ Cup in 2016 and 2017, although they lost on both occasions to Barangay Ginebra.
Black knows full well the daunting task in the second conference as all teams are expected to get stronger, but at least he’s got something to be optimistic.
“We will let the games play out before we rate our standing in the league, but with the trade completed we are aiming for a much better finish this conference,” declared Black.