Meralco is at an unfamiliar territory after three games in the Oppo-PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
On top of the standings with its 3-0 record, the Bolts beat powerhouse squads in the first two weeks of the tournament beginning with Star, 90-86, followed by Tropang TNT (88-84) and just last Wednesday, Rain or Shine (98-95).
Fil-American forward Cliff Hodge said the team’s improved chemistry has a lot to do with the team’s electrifying start.
“The biggest change so far that I see is our team chemistry because we came in to our last conference with half of the team new,” Hodge told FOX Sports.
“But after the conference (Philippine Cup), we got a lot of scrimmage games, maybe 10 or 11 so it’s almost like we had an extra conference to prepare and we got used to playing with each other,” he added.
Adding to the team’s unbeaten run to start the mid-season conference is the veteran leadership playmaker Jimmy Alapag provides, as well as the solid inside game of wide-bodied import Arinze Onuaku.
On a comeback trail after announcing his PBA retirement in January 2015, Hodge said Alapag has been a strong voice in the locker room as he tries to impart his vast knowledge of the game to them.
“Jimmy’s helped a lot with the leadership and just pretty much, he’s been our leader,” shared Meralco’s 4th overall pick in the 2012 PBA Draft.
“Since he’s been here, he has taught us how he did it (win championships) in the past and how he’s trying to bring it here now.”
Meanwhile, Meralco coach Norman Black said in order to sustain the team’s good start, the Bolts coaching staff are now finding ways to help the 6-foot-9 Onuaku get accustomed to playing 45 to 48 minutes per game.
“I think he’ll (Onuaku) agree with me that we have to get him in better shape,” said Black.
“He’s coming off a stint in israel where he didn’t really played that many minutes per game and has flown straight here.”
Given the attraction he’ll get defensively and the load expected from an import, the Meralco mentor said they will help Onuaku get to PBA shape to increase his stamina.
Meralco shoots for a fourth straight win on Sunday when it goes up against newcomer Phoenix at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. – By Richard Dy
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