After seeing Meralco import Arinze Onuaku churn out a 20-20 performance just less than a day after arriving from the United States, coach Norman Black is convinced that the Bolts finally got an antidote for their rebounding woes.
Onuaku had an explosive debut of 25 points and 22 rebounds, while bucking jet lag to help the Bolts recover from an early 14-point hole and complete a 90-86 come-from-behind win against a stunned Star Hotshots Wednesday night.
“It’s nice that Arinze is a good player and he really covers some of our weaknesses,” said Black, whose team is coming off a woeful 1-10 win-loss record in the Philippine Cup.
Onuaku was coming in as a last-minute replacement for original choice Malcolm Thomas, who got injured during the team’s practice game against NLEX last week.
Black said it was a good thing that the American with a Nigerian descent was available when contacted, which was why the Bolts wasted no time getting him quickly to Manila in a matter of four days.
And with the rock-solid Onuaku using his 275-pound frame at the painted area, the Bolts suddenly had a legitimate inside threat, which they sorely lacked during the all-Filipino conference.
The Bolts actually placed last in the rebounding department in the season-opening conference after averaging just 44.1 boards per game.
But with Onuaku suddenly entering the picture, Black felt they have a “Shaquille O’Neal-like” presence on the floor.
“What Arinze does for us is he helps clean up the rebounds for us, and what he’s gonna do for me, is he’s gonna help our offense because when we control the boards, we get to run,” he added.
As for Onuaku, he is hopeful that the Bolts will help him get the job done every game, aware that Meralco is coming off an abysmal stint in the Philippine Cup.
“All I can do is go out there and fight. Hopefully, the guys will fight with me and that things will fall into place,” said the former Syracuse Orangeman.
Onuaku admitted his trip to Manila from Washington wasn’t easy, considering that it took him one full day to travel to the Philippines.
Nonetheless, all was worth it after helping the Bolts get the hard-earned win.
“The biggest thing is to get a win. That’s always a positive and the team seems to be a little bit more upbeat. So that’s good too,” he added.
Meralco will get two extra days to help Onuaku get into the scheme of things before returning to action on Saturday against sister team Tropang TNT at the Philsports Arena. – By Richard Dy