MANILA, Philippines -- The Meralco Bolts are banking on former No. 1 pick Nonoy Baclao to shore up their interior defense in the upcoming season of the PBA.
The Bolts picked up Baclao from the unrestricted free agent list in April last year, but he did not play in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup as he was still recovering from a knee injury.
Despite this, Meralco signed Baclao to a one-year extension earlier this week.
"Everyone knows he's coming back from injury, and we're happy he's recovering well," Meralco team manager Paolo Trillo told PBA.ph of Baclao, who suffered a ruptured patellar tendon while playing for Alaska in the 2019 PBA Governors' Cup.
"We expect him to come in and play a role for us, especially defensively," Trillo added. "Being a veteran, hopefully, he can help us with an inside presence."
The No. 1 pick in the 2010 PBA Rookie Draft, Baclao played for several teams before finding a home with the Aces, where he played for four seasons. He was a two-time UAAP champion with Ateneo de Manila University and the Finals MVP in UAAP Season 71.
In Meralco, he reunites with his collegiate head coach, Norman Black, who hopes that Baclao will form a strong defensive frontline together with Raymond Almazan.
"He's a very intelligent player defensively. So I'm looking forward to his addition," said Black.
Baclao, for his part, expressed his gratitude to Meralco for signing him to a contract extension and vowed to do his best to repay the trust shown in him by the franchise.
"Hopefully, I can repay them sa pagbabalik ko sa paglalaro at makapag-champion para sa franchise," he said.
Meralco is coming off a semifinals appearance in the All-Filipino Cup, where they lost to eventual champion Barangay Ginebra in five games.