WITH a solid core of battle-tested veterans and young blood eager to prove their worth, the Meralco Bolts have the potential to crowd early favorites Talk ‘N Text, Petron Blaze and San Mig Coffee in the Philippine Cup title race.
But first things first, the Bolts will have to take care of business as they try to keep their core of veterans led by 2003 league MVP Asi Taulava, center Jay-R Reyes and shooter Mark Macapagal who are all out of contract.
That's the job for newly appointed team manager Butch Antonio, who said getting these veterans signed is his top priority to ensure the Bolts have a good support team behind team leaders Mac Cardona and Solomon Mercado.
“We want to get our players in place and try to keep our team competitive,” Antonio told Spin.ph after he was officially introduced to the team following the Bolts’ practice sessions on Tuesday at the Meralco gym in Ortigas.
Antonio, who also served as Smart-Gilas II’s team manager in the PBA-backed national team’s successful conquest of the Williams Jones Cup in Taipei, also reiterated that he would be talking with Taulava this regarding rumors of his possible jump to the Asean Basketball League.
“Nababalitaan ko na nga yang tsismis na iyan but once we get to discuss and renegotiate his contract, we’ll get to hear him out,” added Antonio, also the project director of the MVP (Manny V. Pangilinan) Sports Foundation.
Hopes are high for the Bolts in the coming 38th PBA season with the acquisition of rookie Fil-Americans Cliff Hodge (fourth overall) and Kelly Nabong (17th overall) in the recent draft.
The 6’4” Hodge averaged 14 points and 9.8 rebounds per outing in the past D-League campaign, leading the Road Warriors to a perfect 13-game sweep of the tournament en route to ctheir third consecutive D-League title. He was named MVP in the same conference for his consistent performance.
On the other hand, Nabong saw action for Blackwater in the PBA D-League, averaging 13.1 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists.