Meralco head coach Norman Black remains confident in his student Rabeh Al-Hussaini, whose return to the PBA after a one-year absence is slowly impacting the Bolts.
“Rabeh was off for one year. Slowly but surely, he will get his rhythm back. The one thing I know is, we need him,” Black said after the Bolts finally recorded their first win in the PBA Philippine Cup Saturday over the Star Hotshots, 87-83.
“We need his size, his ability to score inside. I know he is struggling a little bit but it is something I am looking forward to in the future.”
Handling Al-Hussaini is nothing new for Black; back with the Ateneo Blue Eagles, Al-Hussaini led the Loyola side to two — of an eventual five straight — championships with Black as the head coach.
Black has seen the development of Al-Hussaini as one of the premier bigs in college and his trust in his ward remains huge, saying Al-Hussaini is a vital part of the Bolts’ system.
Al-Hussaini, the 2011 PBA Rookie of the Year and a former Smart-Gilas I member, skipped the entire 2014-15 season to play for a Kuwaiti Division I Basketball team, but has since provided additional lift for Meralco in his return to the PBA.
He averages 10.5 PPG and 4.2 RPG. Against the Hotshots, Al-Hussaini scored 12 points, grabbed 3 rebounded, dished out 2 assists, and swatted away 3 shots while providing an invaluable interior presence for the Bolts.
“When you are off for an entire year, it is almost impossible for you to get your game back immediately. But he will have an opportunity for the entire season to develop his game again and get comfortable. As far as I am concerned, he is a big part of our team,” Black added.
“Offensively, we really need him. He hasn’t been as consistent as I would want him to be but at the same time, I am not about to give up on him. I work with him every day in practice and I see how hard he works every day on practice. We will try to develop his game and hopefully he can show fans what he can really do.”
The Bolts may have a poor 1-5 record in the conference so far, but Black is looking forward to building on the victory over Star. And part of that rise is making Al-Hussaini one of the better big men in the league again.
“Smarter. That is very important. You go out play the game the way it should be played. You play it with intelligence and a good basketball sense. Rabeh is talented. He has been around for a while. I would like to see him improve how he plays the game.”