ALEX Stepheson may not be a lights-out scorer, but he may just be what the doctor ordered for Meralco.
The hulking 6-10 Bolts import finished with just 10 points but he hauled down 21 rebounds, blocked three shots and changed many more as Meralco opened its PBA Commissioner's Cup campaign with a 94-86 win over Mahindra on Friday.
"He's big and strong, that's what we were looking for," Black said after Stepheson's debut. "We still need to give Alex time to get in shape, need to work on his conditioning, but in terms of him controlling the defensive boards, he really helps us in that area."
While he's still trying to get himself in top shape, Stepheson has already forced a bond with his teammates this early in the campaign, Black said.
No wonder many players had his back when his offensive shortcomings became obvious.
Baset Amer and Chris Newsome carried the load for Meralco offensively with 19 and 17 points, respectively, while Cliff Hodge made some big shots down the stretch.
"It helps that his teammates like him. He's a jolly player," Black continued. "They want him to stay, they're playing well for him and as long they can help him get to that, we're in good shape."
[See Amer, Hodge lead from front as Meralco brings down Mahindra]
Stepheson couldn't be any happier with how the locals stepped up.
"We really played well as a team," Stepheson said. "Still we have some things we needed to work on. But Cliff stepped up big. Baser was really good at point guard. Newsome played well. Kelly (Nabong) played big in the four position. We still have a lot to clean on," he added.
But Stepheson vowed to get better once he becomes more comfortable with the style of play in the PBA.
"Down low I need to slow down a little bit and find my touch around the basket. Free throw line, improve that. Defensively is a little bit different but I'll adjust to that, we'll be okay."