Chris Newsome makes Meralco more versatile, says Norman Black

Naveen Ganglani

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Chris Newsome makes Meralco more versatile, says Norman Black
The multi-titled head coach also speaks highly of Baser Amer

MANILA, Philippines – The Meralco Bolts had an opportunity to select Norbert Torres and shore up their frontline depth in the 2015 PBA Draft, but instead, the team picked up two collegiate standouts to strengthen their guard positions – an important area of need, according to head coach Norman Black.

With the fourth pick in the draft, Meralco took former Ateneo Blue Eagle Chris Newsome, and then 3 selections later, picked up Baser Amer of the San Beda Red lions.

“The last couple of months, we’ve done a pretty good job of bringing in bigs. We picked up Kelly Nabong at the end of the season, and then of course Rabeh Al-Hussaini is back with the team again,” Black told Rappler on Sunday, August 23, about the franchise’s reason to not get Torres or another big man.

“So, we wanted to try to take care of other weaknesses, which we felt were at the shooting guard and at the point guard, so that’s what we really tried to do at this draft: we tried to strengthen our positions at shooting guard and point guard.”

Newsome played small forward and some power forward in his two years as a Blue Eagle, but at 6-foot-2, his designated position in the PBA will be at the two-guard slot. The 22-year-old Amer, who’s 5-foot-10, has been a point guard all his collegiate career and will play the same role in the pros.

“He’s been there for me ever since I reached here in the Philippines, so I feel like he’s been the one that’s seen me develop the most,” Newsome said about Black.

The Filipino-American standout didn’t play under Black while the latter was still an Ateneo head coach, but did serve his required UAAP residency while the head coach led the Blue Eagles to a fifth consecutive UAAP title in 2012.

“He saw me come in as a raw athlete and he’s also seen me develop into what I’ve been able to accomplish in Ateneo,” said Newsome, who averaged 14.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.6 assists a game in 2014.

Black said he feels picking Newsome was due to the team’s lack of wing depth. The Bolts just recently waived Ryan Buenafe and Mark Macapagal, leaving Gary David, Cliff Hodge, and Jared Dillinger with an even heavier burden.

Newsome, known for his stirring athleticism, should help ease that.

“Gary David is our best wing player, and he’s basically a shooter; he’s not a great defender, he’s not a great ball-handler, but he can shoot the basketball,” said the 57-year-old Black, who’s searching for his 12th PBA title as a coach.

“He can score. After him, we don’t really have much at all, so bringing in Chris gives us an opportunity to have more versatility. He can play the one position, the two position, the 3 position, and possibly even the 4 position.”

“I feel like I would be able to contribute more offensively because I’m not necessarily going to be the one that has to be down there, rebounding all the time like I had to at Ateneo, playing the power forward position,” Newsome said about the role he envisions having with the Bolts.

“So I’ll be more in the perimeter, I can get the long rebounds, and I can actually be one of the first guys out on the break, so I definitely plan on being more aggressive on the open court with this team – more of a run-and-gun style team – and I just see we just drafted Baser at the point guard so that kind of helps at the point guard duties.”

Black points out that Newsome’s skills can lead to a faster tempo for the Bolts, and his prowess on defense will help an already strong defensive team get even more rigid.

“We can switch most pick-and-rolls with him, defensively, and offensively, he can play the point. He can play the shooting guard, so he gives us a lot of versatility, he gives us a lot of athleticism, he gives us an opportunity to get out and run and push the basketball, so we’re very, very happy that we were able to get him in the draft,” said Black.

A quality point guard

Amer has played only two games this NCAA season as he continues to nurse a shoulder injury, but the many facets of his game made him an alluring pick for Meralco.

“In drafting Amer, it just gives us a very quality young point guard coming into the team,” said Black, whose Bolts recently acquired PBA legend Jimmy Alapag. 

“I mean, the kid can play. He’s quick, he’s fast, he can pass the basketball, he’s not turnover-prone. We think he has a great future, and I’m hoping that Jimmy will be able to mentor him, because remember Jimmy’s 37-years-old, so he’s not getting any younger. But while we want to utilize Jimmy’s talents now, at the same time we’re hoping he can mentor Amer in the next two years.”

Black also cited Amer’s shooting as “improved” and talked about how it will be a weapon for him as his career progresses.

“He’s improved his outside shooting. He’s always had a midrange game. He has good floaters going to the basket… I just think he has a very, very bright future,” he said.

“I think he’ll do a good job running the offense, and he’s not turnover-prone. He takes care of the basketball. For me, that’s very, very important.” –

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