MERALCO coach Norman Black believes the team got a gem of a player in Seiya Ando as the Japanese player takes the spot of Iranian guard Benny Koochoie in the PBA Governors Cup.
Ando, who once impressed Ateneo superstar Keifer Ravena when the two played against each other during the 2010 Fiba-Asia Under-18 Championships in Sanaa, Yemen, arrived in the country on Sunday night.
But in his first day of practice with the Bolts at the Meralco gym on Monday, Black and his coaching staff were already left impressed by his plays.
“I think he’ll (Ando) help us. We sometimes struggle with ball pressure, so I think he’ll help us in the point guard position to allow us to be able to get to our plays easier and allow us to break the ball pressure from other teams,” Black told Spin.ph shortly after the team’s practice on Monday.
Ando starred for Meijie University in college and still remembers how the Japanese national team lost twice to Ravena and Co. during the Fiba-Asia meet five years ago.
Japan bowed to the Philippines, 75-57, during the second round, before losing, 91-86, in overtime during the semifinals.
“Against Philippines, Kiefer Ravena, I remember. Very quick move, Philippine team very physical, just like Americans,” recalled Ando, who emerged as the tournament’s best scorer after averaging 23.4 points per game.
Black said Ravena actually told him he asked for Ando’s jersey shortly after the tournament as he came away impressed with the Japanese scorer.
Ando, meanwhile, thanked his new teammates for helping him work through Meralco’s defensive and offensive schemes.
“I’m excited playing for Meralco. Everybody was teaching me about offense, defense, and I really appreciate it,” the youthful Japanese point guard said in halting English.
With back-up point guard Simon Atkins possibly out for the next two or three games due to a knee injury, Ando’s entry is expected to bolster Meralco’s backcourt currently being manned by Mike Cortez and alternates Anjo Caram and Jai Reyes.
Atkins joins veteran Fil-Am guard Jared Dillinger (sprained left knee) in the sidelines as part of Meralco’s injured lineup.
Black, whose team evened its record to 1-1 following its 106-95 overtime win over San Miguel Beer on Saturday, believes the 22-year-old Japanese guard can alternate with Cortez at the point guard spot.
“I’ll probably end up alternating him with Mike at point guard. He showed in practice he can shoot from the perimeter plus he’s a pesky defender,” said Black.
“For his first day, he’s quite impressive I would think.”