New coach Norman Black, who replaced Ryan Gregorio to become the second coach to handle the Meralco Bolts since the squad joined the Philippine Basketball Association, hopes to recharge the under-powered Meralco Bolts this season.
”We’re looking to be contenders and be just like the teams who are favored. I think we do have a good core that is capable of pulling surprises. Hopefully we can have a good season,” said Black who was transferred by team owner Manny V. Pangilinan from the Talk N Text Tropang Texters.
Black, a PBA Grand Slam champion coach, took the helm of the underachieving franchise. He retains a formidable core of players which include Gary David, Jared Dillinger, Reynel Hugnatan, Mike Cortez, Cliff Hodge, John Wilson and James Sena.
The Bolts made some key off-season acquisitions to add more firepower. They acquired veterans Sean Anthony, Mark Macapagal, Simon Atkins and second year player Ryan Buenafe.
Black will not have any rookies in the squad. He hopes the off-season acquisitions will be enough to finally help the Bolts get over the hump.
While Meralco is looking to go to the next level, its sister team the NLEX Road Warriors, one of the league’s three teams, is looking to carry its winning tradition from the PBA D-League to the big leagues.
Though NLEX management is giving the team a modest a goal of reaching the playoffs, big man Asi Taulava, a mythical team member last season after a sensational renaissance of a season at age 41, challenges his squad to even go further.
”I hope we can compete for a championship with this line-up even if our team is technically new. We have a group of players who reached the semifinals last season and we’re working hard in the off-season to be better. Hopefully we can do that,” said Taulava.
The Road Warriors, who won multiple championships in the PBA D-league, bought the Air21 franchise instead of buying a PBA franchise as an expansion squad. It may have cost them more but they inherit the nucleus of the Air21 Express squad that reached the PBA semifinals last season. NLEX inherited a respectable Air21 squad instead of starting from scratch like the other new teams the Kia Sorentos and the Blackwater Elite.
That Express core will be at the forefront of the NLEX attack. They include the ageless Taulava, Mac Cardona, Jonas Villanueva, Alrech Ramos, Eric Camson, and Wynne Arboleda. They will be joined by a healthy Enrico Villanueva as well as Eloy Poligrates and Niño Canaleta.
Both with capable line-ups, it will be interesting to see how the sister teams live up to their potential this season.