MERALCO has always been known as a top-tier defensive team in the PBA, but is not as prolific on the offensive end.
Even Bolts coach Norman Black acknowledged, saying: “In the past years we’ve been a pretty good defensive team, normally within the top three. But we’ve never been a really high-scoring team.”
Meralco hopes to start piling up the buckets more with the acquisition of Mac Belo and Alvin Pasaol ahead of the coming season that starts next month.
After establishing himself as one of Blackwater’s most reliable scorers, Belo was traded to Meralco last month in exchange for Baser Amer and Bryan Faundo.
Then the Bolts got the chance to pick Pasaol at ninth overall in last Sunday’s rookie draft, a move that raised some eyebrows since they were projected to opt for a big man who could boost their frontline.
Black, explaining their move, said: “Actually, I had some bigs in mind but they were all taken in early. Our thought was that if we didn’t get one of those… we were hoping and praying that Pasaol would drop to us
“He was really at the top of our list. We really felt like we needed a scorer. I know there are some young bigs in the draft, like (Ken) Holmqvist and also (Troy) Rike. We also looked at them in practice, too.
“But we just felt that the fact we just brought in Noy Baclao. He’s ready to play already and we brought in Mac Belo, who we traded for, so we did shore up our frontline a little bit in the off-season. But at the same time in order to do that we lost Baser Amer, so we lost scoring. We gained scoring with Mac Belo but we were thinking we can also try to get more scoring from the wing position.
“That’s why we were really hoping and praying that Pasaol drop to us. We actually invited him to practice to take a closer look at him. We’ve actually looked at him for years and we just think he adds a lot of talent and a lot of scoring ability to our team. Hopefully, he can help us in that area. Along with Belo we think we’ve improved our offense a great deal.”
So far, Pasaol, a burly 6-foot-2 guard who once scored 49 points in the UAAP while playing for the UE Red Warriors, has lived up to Black’s expectations.
“Everywhere he’s been able to score, against anybody. They call him the ‘Walking Buckets,’” narrated Black.
“He’s still got to get in better shape, better condition, and he’s got to get used to his teammates. But you can see his talent. His talent is there.”
That doesn’t mean Meralco would veer away from its defensive mind-set, however.
Raymond Almazan and Noy Baclao would now alternate at center and anchor a defense that also features Reynel Hugnatan, Cliff Hodge, Chris Newsome and Bong Quinto.
The other Bolts, led by Allein Maliksi and last season’s top rookie Aaron Black, are also expected to chip in.
“We think we’ve improved our team. Obviously, all the other teams have improved, too.
But at least we’ve improved our team. Belo would be a big help for us. Baclao would be a big help on defense. We’re hoping some of our younger guys would develop, like Aaron and Travis Jackson. We’re hoping they could step up and help us this year,” said Black.
Meralco actually has two other picks in John Yasa (third round) and Luis Brill (fourth round), but Black said the lone remaining spot in his 15-man roster is reserved for Pasaol.
“We’re pretty much complete already,” stated Black. “We’ll keep some guys as practice players.”