SOL Mercado believes the Meralco Bolts can build on the momentum they had in the last PBA Philippine Cup, hoping to strongly contend for the championship of the coming Commissioner’s Cup.
The 6-foot-1 Mercado, one of the league-leaders in both scoring (19.2 points) and assists (6.69 assists) during the season-opening tournament, led the Bolts to a top four finish at the end of the eliminations in the All-Filipinoconference.
But the Bolts’ gaping hole in the middle was finally exposed during the quarterfinals when the Alaska Aces swept them in the best-of-three series, 2-0, as Sonny Thoss, Gabby Espinas, and rookie Calvin Abueva took turns in dominating them inside.
And this was not lost on Mercado himself.
“Big man was our key missing link last conference, but hopefully, with the energy we had the last time, and then we have an import who’s pretty long and big, we can have our best conference this time. Because I feel we could have gone further if we had a big,” Mercado told Spin.ph after the team’s second day of practice.
Mercado said the entry of Eric Dawson as the team’s import for the second conference easily gives the Bolts a solid inside operator who can both score and play solid defense.
“Now we have someone that when they (opposing team) are defending the dribble drive, someone whom we can throw the ball down to and get us some buckets or attract a foul,” he said.
“He just gives us a different aspect to our own game. The big guy (Dawson) looks athletic and can run the floor. He’ll definitely help us in rebounding and block shots,” noted the 28-year-old Mercado.
Even rookie Cliff Hodge said he’s glad Dawson is coming in to help solve the team’s rebounding woes and allow him the free hand to move into the small forward position.
“Yeah, we finally got a big guy. Of course, Asi (Taulava) was big for us so it was a big hole to fill when he left,” said the slam-dunking forward.
“All we need is a big guy. I know other teams have big guys or NBA players in their team. But if you have a group of big guys who can play together, it’s gonna be hard to beat us,” added the fourth overall rookie pick this season.