The Meralco Bolts gets reloaded with extra firepower as they once again represent the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) in the 2019 FIBA Asia Champions Cup.

According to the PBA, Puerto Rican forward Renaldo Balkman will be joining the Bolts after the squad was selected to replace the supposed champion team representatives in the club championships in Thailand next month.

The former NBA veteran Balkman averaged 25.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game for San Miguel Alab Pilipinas last season in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL). He has also won the league’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year award during the 2017-18 campaign as he helped lead the team to their first ABL title.

Last year, the PBA and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) also opted to send the 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.

Allen Durham, Meralco Bolts (Photo: FIBA)
Allen Durham will return to reinforce the Meralco Bolts (Photo: FIBA)

Balkman will try to help bring them to a podium finish as he replaces last year’s big man Diamond Stone, and is set to join the returning Allen Durham, who was inarguably the Bolts’ best player during the 2018 club championships as he tallied 21.8 points, 12.8 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per outing.

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.

Meralco is 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 teams for the 2019 FIBA Asia Champions Cup, which will be held at the Chulalongkorn University Sports Complex in Bangkok, Thailand on September 24-29.

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