The Meralco Bolts will once again carry the flag for the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) in the 2019 FIBA Asia Champions Cup, replacing the supposed representatives San Miguel Beermen.
With two consecutive championships under their belts, the Beermen were the de facto choice to represent the Philippines in the upcoming club championships, but will once again be missing from the tournament.
Apart from East Asia’s ‘Big Three’ professional leagues, the PBA is the only other league to be granted an automatic berth to the Final 8, and while the Philippines has been one of the most active countries in FIBA competitions, they have yet to be represented by reigning professional league titlists in the past 28 editions of the Champions Cup.
San Miguel is already set to make a rare appearance in an international club competition as they will be joining fellow PBA teams Blackwater Elite and their recent Finals opponents, TNT KaTropa, at the East Asia Super League tournament in Macau next month, so it appears they are able if willing.
Last year, the PBA and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) also opted to send the Meralco Bolts in place of San Miguel. The Bolts made it to the semifinals but bowed out in a tightly-contested match against Petrochimi Bandar Imam BC of Iran, before losing to the Seoul SK Knights in the Bronze Medal match.
Meralco’s participation as the first proper PBA team to join drew praise from Asian basketball fans, nonetheless, and are once again a welcome addition to this year’s tournament.
The Bolts will once again be led by prolific import Allen Durham, who was inarguably their best player last year’s edition. Locals Baser Amer, Anjo Caram, Raymond Almazan, Reynel Hugnatan, Chris Newsome, Niño Canaleta, Ranidel De Ocampo, Gabby Espinas, Cliff Hodge, Bryan Faundo, Trevis Jackson, Nico Salva, John Pinto, and Kier Quinto are expected to complete the lineup.
The Bolts are set to join the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), Alvark Tokyo of B.League Japan, Ulsan Mobis Phoebus of the Korean Basketball League (KBL), Hitech Basketball Club of the Thailand Basketball League (TBL), and the Fubon Braves from Chinese Taipei’s Super Basketball League (SBL).
Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent, two more teams from the Gulf and West Asia subzones will complete the cast of eight for the 2019 FIBA Asia Champions Cup, will be held at the Chulalongkorn University Sports Complex in Bangkok, Thailand on September 24-29.
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