29 September 2015

Preview: 2015 Meralco Bolts

Meralco Basketball
A new Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) season kicks off on Sunday, 18 October, Anticipation is high especially with the influx of young talent that came via the PBA draft.

Meralco Bolts has three rookies in its roster a couple of returning and newly acquired semi veteran players. Can their fans expect more from them in the All-Filipino Conference.

At the start of the 2014-15 season, the Bolts replaced their erstwhile mentor Ryan Gregorio who stirred to unproductive 4 years in the league. They brought in multi-titled coach norman Black.

During last year's Philippine Cup conference, they performed well, even eliminating the defending champion Purefoods Star Hotshots, but were later eliminated by Alaska Aces.

After three unsuccessful conferences, the Bolts posted a decent 15-11 win-loss record, not enough to break from the middle of the pecking order. Hopefully, a series of offseason moves will change all that.

Behind the prying eyes, Meralco landed one key player after another in trying to complete their roster. The biggest acquisition is convincing Rabeh Al-Hussaini to come back from Kuwait after an almost a year of absence. The 6-foot-9 center is capable of providing double-double numbers for the team with proper guidance.

Justin Chua and Bryan Faundo will add more size to a previously underrated frontline. With Reynel Hugnatan and Kelly Nabong, the newly acquired players should give Meralco toughness and experience in the shaded area.

Will we see Meralco's veterans in their best form? Hugnatan, Gary David, and Jimmy Alapag were excellent during their prime, but it seems father time has caught up with them.

Also, Meralco's top scorers last Philippine Cup – David and Hodge – are going to be marked men. David will be relied on for scoring, but he has to be consistent. Remember his slump with Gilas Pilipinas? David must regain his touch because it would be a problem if his offensive production becomes unpredictable.

As an insurance, the Bolts tapped the come-backing Ronjay Buenafe to provide additional firepower coming off the bench.

Jared Dillinger and Chris Newsome will provide hustle on the defensive end and they are also capable scorer. Their size and versatility makes them a threat at the wings and Meralco will need both their energy on the floor.

Will Cliff Hodge emerge as Meralco's star?
The energetic 6-foot-5 forward averaged 9.4 points and 8.1 rebounds RPG per game last season and ended as the team's most consistent blocker with 1.4 swipes per game. He also added a 3-point shot to his arsenal during the Governors' Cup. At 26 years old, it seems Hodge is on his way to becoming the face of the Meralco franchise.

Projected Starters:

Center: Rabeh Al-Hussaini
Power-Forward: Cliff Hodge
Shooting-Forward: Jared Dillinger
Shooting-Guard: Gary David
Point-Guard: Jimmy Alapag


Bryan Faundo
Simon Atkins
Reynel Hugnatan
Rey Guevarra
Ronjay Buenafe
Chris Newsome
Anjo Caram
Justin Chua
Kelly Nabong
Baser Amer
Joseph Sedurifa

Coaching staff:

Head coach: Norman Black
Assistants: Ronnie Magsanoc, Luigi Trillo, Patrick Fran, Xavier Nunag, Gene Afable
Team Manager: Paolo Trillo

Philippine Cup Forecast
The Bolts have been improving since they entered the PBA but they've never made it past the semifinals. The retooled unit could place among the top 6 teams this season but from there it will be a tough ride.

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