NORMAN Black is praying that the injury gods will finally have mercy on him as he wants to have a full-strength Meralco team ready to compete in the 2018 PBA Governors’ Cup.
“I hope we can stay healthy which will give us a better chance,” he said.
Runner-ups for the past two years, the Bolts are wishing that third time will be the charm as they eye to nab the franchise’s first title in the season-ending tournament.
But getting back in the title picture won’t be easy.
Injuries have hindered Meralco’s campaign in the past seasons, with Jared Dillinger nursing a knee injury in 2016 while Ranidel de Ocampo dealt with a calf injury last year. Both of those absences eventually turned out to be big blows for the Bolts as they surrendered in the championship round and finished as bridesmaid to Ginebra in back-to-back years.
This early, though, Black is hoping to make quick adjustments as Meralco slowly integrates Cliff Hodge back in the lineup – a valuable lesson he picked up from the squad’s quarterfinal exit in the Commissioner’s Cup.
“Even this past conference, Cliff Hodge went down with an injury towards the playoffs and we’re never the same team again,” he said as the four-seed Bolts got swept by the fifth-seed Gin Kings in the round of eight. “Because we don’t have the depth as San Miguel or Ginebra have, we can’t afford to have injuries to some of our key players.”
Luckily for him, reigning Best Import awardee Allen Durham is back in the fold, aching to close out what Meralco is regarding as an unfinished business as Black offers no more doubts on what the reinforcement can bring to the table. “He’s been the Best Import the last two years and he’s a very good player,” he said.
Though Black is certain on what the team’s goal is, he knows that keeping the players on the court will be the biggest hurdle Meralco needs to address if it wants to end the heartaches this upcoming conference.
“I’m hoping we win it. I’m not hoping to come in second place,” he said. “But the number one thing for us will be our players’ health. Keep Ranidel healthy, keep Cliff Hodge healthy, keep our major rotation players healthy hopefully towards the playoffs and continue to play at a high level.”