19 November 2016

Who Can Serve and Rim Protect for Meralco?

Rim Protector
With the Meralco Bolts entering the season with almost the same line-up as last year, there is a lot of focus on them finding a rim protector. The Bolts lacked an anchor down low who struck fear into opposing players driving the lane. Their only protection down low are either the underachieving Rabeh Al-Hussaini and rugged Kelly Nabong, both are measured at 6-foot-7.

It cannot be denied that the major reason why they had success in the last two conferences last season is because they were able to fly in two dominant imports who were also able to bag the Best Import awards. Arize Onuaku and Allen Durham were both prolific, paint-thriving reinforcements in the import-spiced conferences that masked Meralco's biggest problem the past few years. This season, the Bolts finds itself starting at the same problem of finding a legitimate defender against the league's top big men.

Not having a rim protector put a glaring hole in their otherwise very good defense. Cliff Hodge, Chris Newsome and Jared Dillinger all are great defensive wings, however, none can be put on the block and stop a player from driving the lane and getting an easy layup.

The optimistic Meralco fan hopes that Al-Hussaini can bounce back from the long lay-off that shortened his campaign the former 2010 Rookie of the Year when he opted for an extended stay in Kuwait last May 2014. He showed some promise last season, but he still failed to provide a steadying presence as tries to settle in his new role. Al-Hussaini has the length and physicality to help the back line, but he needs to get his confidence back.

Can the Bolts find a rim protector before the All-Filipino conference starts? Nope. It certainly would have been a lot easier if Justin Chua can get back the skills he develop in the D-League where he held his own against Greg Slaughter, but since that's not happening, Meralco will have to examine what's left of its big-man armory that -- much like the team's roster last season -- isn't overflowing with pure size.

Though the breakthrough Finals appearance in the last Governor's Cup is something to build on, it's up to Meralco to show that achievement isn't just a one-off.

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