MANILA, Philippines -- After playing just six games for Meralco in the 2022 PBA Commissioner's Cup, KJ McDaniels is embracing his new opportunity with the Bolts in the season-ending Governors' Cup.
McDaniels was brought in to replace Johnny O'Bryant III midway through the Commissioner's Cup, but he went just 3-3 during his stint and Meralco wound up missing the playoffs. It did not help that the Bolts were without their team captain, Chris Newsome, for the bulk of the conference over calf injuries.
Newsome has since returned to action and McDaniels has had the benefit of a longer preparation time with Meralco. As such, the American import is optimistic about their chances this time around.
"It's a big confidence-booster for us, you know, me coming in the beginning," said McDaniels, who averaged 27.3 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.3 blocks, and 1.3 steals per game in the Commissioner's Cup.
"My teammates believe in me, I believe in my teammates, the coaching staff believes in me, and bringing me back, it's a blessing," he added.
"Even though we didn't finish the way we wanted to last conference, but we have a chance to re-start, come back with the right focus, and it's a blessing, just being back, playing in the PBA."
McDaniels' second go-around with the Bolts got off to an auspicious start, as he tallied a massive 27-point, 23-rebound double-double in their 105-87 rout of Rain or Shine on Sunday.
Interestingly, the result gave McDaniels a win over his former coach in the PBA, Yeng Guiao. The 29-year-old big man previously played for the NLEX Road Warriors in 2021.
"It feels good," McDaniels said of the win. "That's Coach Yeng, great coach. But we came out with a plan, executed it, and our coaches came out with the better game plan."
He is quick to put the big win at the back of his mind, however, stressing that the Bolts must now build on their performance against the Elasto Painters. Meralco had five players in double-digits against Rain or Shine, including Chris Banchero with 17 points and Bong Quinto who provided 11 points in a reserve role. They also had a huge 64-43 rebounding advantage against the Elasto Painters.
"It starts in practice … We just have to take this game, learn from it, clean up a few things, and then just get ready for the next game," said McDaniels.
Meralco's next game is on Thursday against the NorthPort Batang Pier (0-1).
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