Norman Black banking on new faces Belo, Pasaol to give Meralco a boost

Coach Norman Black sees Meralco getting a jolt of energy from his new wards as they continue to prepare for the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup.

In an interview over Radyo5's Power & Play with Noli Eala, Black said he expects former top pick Mac Belo and this year's ninth selection Alvin Pasaol to make an immediate impact for the Bolts.

"I'm expecting Mac Belo to come out and help us immediately. He's already proven as a very productive player in the PBA. He's a double-figure scorer every night," explained Black.

"He averages about eight rebounds a game so if he could just bring that every single game, that just gives us a lot more depth down the stretch."

Belo fortifies a Meralco frontcourt which already features Raymond Almazan, Cliff Hodge, and Reynel Hugnatan. Former Ateneo big Noy Baclao, another offseason addition, has fully recovered from his devastating knee injury and will suit up in the All-Filipino Conference as well.

"He's gonna help us, I think, on the defensive end. He will give us the ability to defend some of the better bigs from the other teams as we go down the stretch," said Black of his ex-player with the Blue Eagles.

On the other hand, Pasaol, whom the coach confessed to have coveted the most in the recent Rookie Draft, is also being expected to quickly pay dividends for a Meralco side that has long lacked offensive firepower.

"I'm expecting a lot from him. He's been a big-time scorer throughout his whole career and I don't see why he can't do it in the PBA because he's playing initially against the same players he faced in the amateurs. We're expecting a good performance from him starting this All-Filipino," shared Black.

Though Black preferred the coming games to be far from a 'bubble,' he also stated that he supports the move if it will mean an immediate start to the PBA's 46th Season.

"The teams have been very, very kind in the fact that they are taking care of us, despite the fact that we are not playing basketball right now. If they're saying we have to go to another 'bubble,' then we have to do it," expressed Black, talking about the PBA considering another 'bubble' in Clark, Pampanga due to the continuing COVID-19 crisis.

When asked about improvements for another 'bubble season,' he requested that the league allot them more time to prepare for resumption.

"In other words, to get some practice here in Manila so that we can get in shape because that was the big problem for most coaches. The players were really not in great condition when we started the season, so this time around, I'm hoping that we'll be able to get a lot more time to get our players in shape," recalled Black as, just before the league decided to indefinitely postpone the season opening, it only gave all 12 teams 10 days to practice.

Last year, Meralco had its strongest showing in an All-Filipino Conference, surging to the semifinals for the first time ever. There, they pushed eventual champion Ginebra to the brink, before Scottie Thompson's dagger three in the final seconds of Game 5 abruptly ended their campaign.

With that, Black heads to the new season as confident as ever, declaring that his team was capable of "[beating] anybody any given night."