The Meralco Bolts are raring to exhibit the high level of Philippine professional basketball at the world stage when they debut in the 2018 FIBA Asia Champions Cup.

Despite not being current champions of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), the Bolts are a perennial playoff contender who earned back-to-back Governor’s Cup Finals appearances in 2016 and 2017, but fell both times to the Ginebra Gin Kings.

Meralco will be bannered by locals Baser Amer, Chris Newsome, Garvo Lanete, Cliff Hodge, Mike Tolomia, Nico Salva, Reynel Hugnatan, KG Cañaleta, Anjo Caram, Ken Bono, Simon Atkins, Jason Ballesteros, Bryan Faundo, Jammer Jamito, and Joseph Sedurifa. However, injuries will prevent them from having vital cogs Jared Dillinger (foot) and Ranidel De Ocampo (leg) in action.

The team will also be reinforced by Allen Durham, who helped tow the Bolts to two consecutive finals appearances in the PBA, and Canadian big man Liam McMorrow, who have been playing as an import in the Super Basketball League (SBL) of Chinese Taipei in recent years.

Allen Durham of the Meralco Bolts (Photo: PBA)
Allen Durham of the Meralco Bolts (Photo: PBA)

Meralco was drawn into Group B together with hosts Mono Vampire Basketball Club (Thai champions/East Inter-Sub Zone runner-up), Alvark Tokyo (2017–18 B.League Japan champions), and Lebanon Sporting Al Riyadi Beirut (West Inter-Sub Zone Top 2).

The other group will consist of the Liaoning Flying Leopards (Chinese Basketball Association champions), the Seoul SK Knights (Korea Basketball League champions), Chinese Taipei’s Pauian Archiland (East Inter-Sub Zone winner), and Iran’s Petrochimi Bandar Imam BC (West Inter-Sub Zone winner).

It has been 22 years since any club team the Philippines won the title in the club championships, when Hapee Toothpaste won the 1996 edition held in Manila. Last year, a newly-formed team called Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas represented the country with a mix of national team pool members like Kiefer Ravena and Raymar Jose, backed by former NBA prospect Isaiah Austin as the lone import.

The 27th staging of the annual club tournament featuring the top professional teams from the region was originally meant to be held in a city in China, but was moved to the Thai club team’s home arena.

The Meralco Bolts will open their 2018 FIBA Asia Champions Cup campaign against the hosts Mono Vampire Basketball Club at 15:30 (+7 GMT) on September 27 at the Stadium 29 in Nonthaburi, Thailand.

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