PBA: Black hopes new import will help Meralco close gap on top teams

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 18 2022 07:19 PM

Johnny O'Bryant III (8) of the Charlotte Hornets reboounds over Larry Nance Jr. (7) of the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center in this file photo. Sean M. Haffey, Getty Images/AFP
Johnny O'Bryant III (8) of the Charlotte Hornets reboounds over Larry Nance Jr. (7) of the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center in this file photo. Sean M. Haffey, Getty Images/AFP


MANILA, Philippines -- Meralco coach Norman Black believes he has "hit a homerun" with his choice of import for the 2022 PBA Commissioner's Cup, as the Bolts are bringing in a player with five years of experience in the NBA.

Johnny O'Bryant III, a second round pick by Milwaukee in the 2014 NBA Rookie Draft, arrived in Manila on Wednesday and watched Meralco's loss to San Miguel Beer in Game 7 of their All-Filipino semifinals series. 

"What we normally try to do is we get somebody who's solid. Because it's hard to hit a home run, and get a superstar from the NBA that's gonna come to the Philippines. That doesn't always happen every day," Black told reporters afterward.

"So we just wanna get a solid player, somebody who we know is good offensively, defensively, who can rebound the basketball. And in our case, we don't want a wingman. We want a guy who can also play in the paint, because that's really our weakness," he added.

"I think we hit a homerun with this guy. But we'll wait and see. We'll wait until the games start, but I think we got a good one."

A 6-foot-9 forward, O'Bryant averaged 3.5 points and 2.4 rebounds in 147 games played in the NBA. He had stints in Milwaukee, Toronto, Denver, and Charlotte before playing overseas in 2018.

Before signing with Meralco, O'Bryant was with the Wonju DB Promy in the Korean Basketball League. 

Black is hopeful that O'Bryant will help them close the gap with some of the top teams in the league, as he noted that the Bolts struggle to match up with the frontline of squads like San Miguel Beer and Meralco.

Indeed, San Miguel center June Mar Fajardo was virtually unstoppable in Game 7, overwhelming the Meralco defense for 29 points on just 18 shots along with 14 rebounds. 

"When we go up against the top teams, we don't always match up very well in the middle. Raymond [Almazan] has turned our team and our program around, to be quite honest with you. But at the same time, we still probably need a little bit more size as far as the center position is concerned," Black said.

In getting O'Bryant, Meralco gets a player who can defend Fajardo, as well as the league's other bigs such as Christian Standhardinger of Barangay Ginebra, Ian Sangalang of Magnolia, and Troy Rosario and Poy Erram of Talk 'N Text.

"We hope that Johnny O'Bryant will be able to fill in some of our weaknesses going into the next conference," said Black. 

This will be the first PBA stint for the 29-year-old O'Bryant. 

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