MERALCO coach Norman Black has seen Jimmy Alapag so much in Gilas Pilipinas practice to know the recently retired player can still hold his own against the PBA's best players.
No wonder he's happy to have the 'Mighty Mouse' on board at the Bolts camp.
"I don't understand why he retired in the first place," said Black, hours after the PBA Commissioner's Office approved the three-team trade that sent the rights to Alapag from Talk 'N Text to Meralco. 'Jimmy can still play."
Black and Alapag, 36, have been together for the past week at practices of Gilas, where Black is an assistant like Alapag until the former PBA MVP decided to suit up in the wake of the withdrawals to hit Tab Baldwin's national side.
Now they are set to work together for a second time in the PBA - two years after winning a championship together at Talk 'N Text - to bring Meralco to the top echelons of the league.
Alapag, who retired in February, expressed a desire to return to the league and found a perfect situation at Meralco, a team that has always been shaky in the point guard position owing to Mike Cortez's battle with injuries.
At the same time, the longtime Gilas star may find it hard to crack a Talk 'N Text guard rotation now led by Jayson Castro, with incoming sophomore Kevin Alas his likely backcourt partner.
But he is certainly most welcome at Meralco, where Black said Alapag will serve both as a stabilizing factor for his backcourt and a mentor to his young players.
"Jimmy has a lot left in the tank," said Black. "He'll play a dual role for us, giving us a lot of leadership in the backcourt while serving as mentor to our young players."
Black is also hoping to surround Alapag with a better team which he hopes to boost in the August 23 PBA draft, where the Bolts hold the No. 4 and No. 7 picks overall.
The grand slam coach has made it clear that he intends to shore up his frontline, which is one of the smallest in the league, through the draft.