HELP is coming Meralco’s way in the 43rd season of the PBA.
The Bolts are reinforcing their shallow frontcourt by adding free agent big man Jason Ballesteros while looking to sign up veterans KG Canaleta and Mac Baracael in time for the season-opening Philippine Cup that kicks off almost a week from now.
The 6-foot-6 Ballesteros will be donning the Meralco jersey for the third time after being signed to a one-year contract. The former member of the original Smart Gilas side was actually the Bolts’ first-round pick (No. 7 overall) during the 2011 draft before being traded to Barako Bull after one season.
The former San Sebastian Stag returned to the team in 2014, but played just three games and was later send to Blackwater.
Now 32, Ballesteros spent one season with KIA Picanto last year before being released as a free agent.
Ballesteros was the second player the Bolts acquired from KIA after likewise tapping the services of Nico Salva, the five-time UAAP champion from Ateneo who is reunited with college coach Norman Black at Meralco.
He's expected to add size and strength to the team's frontcourt that was orphaned by Kelly Nabong and currently manned by undersized forwards Ranidel de Ocampo, Cliff Hodge, and Reynel Hugnatan. De Ocampo and Hodge, however, could likely miss the early part of the all-Filipino conference due to injuries.
And then there’s more.
Canaleta and Baracael are trying out for a spot in the team after likewise being left unprotected by Blackwater and Globalport, respectively.
The Bolts are reportedly interested in acquiring Canaleta pending his release by the Elite.
“Gusto nila si KG. Hinihintay na lang 'yung release papers from Blackwater and then he’ll sign him up,” said a person privy to the deal who asked not to be identified pending the formal announcement of Canaleta’s acquisition.
If ever, this will be the ninth team of the 35-year-old former slam dunk champion in 12 seasons after stints with Air21, Purefoods, Barangay Ginebra, TnT Katropa, NLEX, KIA, Globalport, and Blackwater.
Like Canaleta, Baracael, 32, has also bounced around the league since being tapped No. 6 overall by Alaska in the 2011 draft.
A teammate of Ballesteros at Smart Gilas, Baracael spent his first two seasons playing for the Aces before going to Barangay Ginebra, Barako Bull, NLEX, and finally, Globalport.