Head coach Norman Black wasn’t about to hide his excitement over the fact that Meralco will be entering the Philippine Cup relatively healthy for the first time in a long time.
“This is the first All-Filipino that I’ve been pretty much healthy, with an intact lineup. It’s gonna be the first time in four years that that’s happened. I’m really excited about this conference,” Black said during the first-ever PBA Media Day at the Solaire Hotel and Casino yesterday.
‘Meralco’ and ‘injuries’ have been synonymous for a while now, with the latter putting a cap on what their full potential in the All-Filipino wars could be.
“We’ll make the playoffs for sure. After that, if we stay healthy we’ll go far,” forward Cliff Hodge boldly stated.
“I’m confident in our group, with our guys, and with the two rookies that we’ve got. They’re going to help us too. But the confidence is just coming from the fact that we’re all healthy at the same time.”
Hodge, who had to deal with knee, quad and foot maladies throughout 2018, will be reoccupying a big role in what the team said was “a new system.” A versatile threat when healthy, the 30-year-old forward thinks he’ll be playing at a higher level than he was before all that time he missed due to injuries.
“With all the time off that I had, I got my body and my mind right. Stats-wise, I think I could really do better. I’m looking to do better than before. I feel like I still have a lot of room to grow and with how we’re doing, our system now, I’m a lot more involved. There’s a lot of opportunity for me to do better. I’m really excited,” he said.
Jared Dillinger will also be joining Hodge as two of the team’s four healthy returnees. After seeing inconsistent minutes last year, the five-time PBA champion said that he focused on slimming down to help himself get back to tip-top shape.
“I’ve been working really hard, just trying to stay healthy. Last year I’ve been injured for pretty much the whole year. Coming back into this season, being healthy, I’m excited. I lost a lot of weight. I guess that’s crucial when you get older, you need to lose weight. We’re excited,” he spoke.
Like Hodge, he thinks the Bolts have what it takes to make it past the eliminations, but went as far to say that the team isn’t gunning for anything short of a title.
“I think the goal is to win a championship. I don’t think we should settle for anything less. I’d say our goal is to win a championship every conference. I don’t think we should sell ourselves short in any manner,” Dillinger shared.
There’s really no way to determine how well—or how bad—Meralco will turn out to be when the action starts, but this increased optimism alone within members of the team should make them an interesting squad to look out for in the latter parts of the conference.
(Photos from PBA Images)