PBA: Mac Belo feels right at home in Meralco

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 07 2021 04:26 PM

PBA: Mac Belo feels right at home in Meralco 1
Former Blackwater forward Mac Belo in action during the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup. PBA Media Bureau.

MANILA, Philippines -- New Meralco forward Mac Belo is already feeling right at home with the Bolts, where he reunites with some of his former teammates in a squad that has championship expectations.

Meralco officially acquired Belo last week, in a trade that sent veteran point guard Baser Amer and big man Bryan Faundo to Blackwater. It marked the first time in his career that Belo has been traded, after he was selected first overall by the Bossing in the special round of the 2016 PBA Rookie Draft.

"Sobrang speechless ako," Belo said of his first reaction to the trade. "Kasi siyempre, for the past four years ko sa, umpisa ng pag-pasok ko sa PBA, 'yung daily basis ko, talagang Blackwater. Every punta ko sa practice sa kanila. So parang nanibago ako, nanibago."

"Pero ngayon, okay na," he added. 

It helps that he was traded to Meralco, where he will get to play with some of his former teammates in Blackwater -- Allein Maliksi, Toto Jose, and Nard Pinto.

Because of their presence, Belo says he immediately felt comfortable when he joined the Bolts' small-group practice session last Friday, upon getting the go-signal from the team.

"Marami naman akong mga teammates dati sa Blackwater na nandoon na rin sa Bolts," he said. "So, parang 'di na rin bago kasi naging teammate ko rin sila sa Elite before."

"So, at home (ako)," he added. "Noong pumunta ako sa small group nila, so masaya, masaya sa feeling."

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Belo is now looking forward to a fresh start with Meralco, where he is expected to beef up a frontline anchored by Raymond Almazan and Reynel Hugnatan. It will be a fairly new situation for Belo, as the Bolts have emerged as perennial contenders in import conferences while also breaking through in the All-Filipino Cup last year.

In Blackwater, Belo was part of a rebuilding team, where playoff appearances were no certainty. In the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup, they showed great improvement under the guidance of new coach Nash Racela, but still only won two games. 

"It's a challenge for me," Belo said of joining a contending team. "So, hopefully malaki 'yung maitulong ko sa team, and kung ano man 'yung ipapagawa sa akin ni coach, gagawin ko na lang 'yung best ko, para maging fit doon sa system na tinatakbo nila." 

He is ready to do most of his work on the defensive end -- the area of the game where Belo first made a name for himself in Far Eastern University. He expects to learn plenty from Meralco coach Norman Black, whose teams have traditionally been defense-first outfits.

"Based sa scouting report namin dati 'pag sa Meralco, lagi silang mataas sa defensive areas," Belo recalled. "So, talagang defensive team sila. 'Yung mga games nila is ano lang, nagbibigay lang sila ng 80 points per game sa opponent nila or 70."

"So parang for me, ano eh, sa akin gustong-gusto ko talagang maglaro ng defense. 'Yun naman talaga 'yung puhunan ko, even noong college ako," he added. "So tiwala ako na magagawa, magagampanan ko 'yun sa Meralco."

Belo had entered the PBA with plenty of hype in 2016, and was impressive early in his rookie season. But injuries robbed him of his trademark explosiveness and cost him plenty of games.

With the long break between seasons giving him time to recover and get his body in order, Belo is now ready to once again live up to the expectations.

"Kailangan ko lang talaga mag-trabaho nang mabuti," he said. "Gagawin ko na lang 'yung best ko na maging fit doon sa system nila.

"Kung ano man 'yung ipapagawa sa akin nila coach, susundin ko. Talagang pagta-trabahuhan ko. And, hopefully malaki 'yung maitulong ko sa team," he added. "Masaya ako na malaki 'yung tiwala na binigay nila sa akin."