Arinze Onuaku replaces injured Malcolm Thomas in last-minute import change for Bolts
Despite having to change import even before the start of the PBA Commisioner's Cup, coach Norman Black remains upbeat about Meralco's bid in the mid-season conference. Jerome Ascano

MERALCO suffered a bump in its road to recovery in the PBA as import Malcolm Thomas sustained a knee injury, forcing the Bolts to make a last-minute replacement ahead of the Commissioner’s Cup opening.

Thomas said he hurt his left knee after their tune-up game against NLEX last Wednesday.

“We’re going to have to replace him,” Bolts coach Norman Black told Spin.ph on Saturday after their tune-up game against GlobalPort. “It’s a pretty serious injury.”

“It’s a setback,” he added. “It’s something we didn’t want to happen, but there’s not much we can do about it except to react to it and move on, try to get an import here as quickly as possible.”

Black, though, has immediately found a replacement in Arinze Onuaku, an NBA D-League veteran who last played in Israel for Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Onuaku, a traditional big man listed at 6’9”, is expected to arrive on Monday, just two days before the Bolts open their campaign against Star at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

The former Syracuse stalwart was also the same import San Miguel tried to tap in last year’s edition of the mid-season conference.

Black remains upbeat, having seen progress from his squad, which finished dead-last in the Philippine Cup after losing all but one of their 11 games.

“We’re moving a lot better than last conference, offensively and defensively,” the American coach said. “The teamwork is a lot better. We’re rebounding the ball a lot better, so we’ve definitely improved.

“The new players seem to be more comfortable with the system now, and the only thing left to do now is to get a very productive import to support them.”

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