Renaldo Balkman in a Meralco jersey?
Quite hard to imagine, right? But it actually came to reality – almost.
Bolts head coach Norman Black disclosed that the celebrated veteran was someone that the team took a serious look at when original choice Shabazz Muhammad had to back out as their import for the 2021-22 PBA Governors’ Cup.
“When he told us he wasn’t coming, we had to really scramble to get another player. You guys don’t know this but Renaldo Balkman was the guy we were really looking at to come over and play this conference for us,” he said.
The Puerto Rican has played in the Commissioner’s Cup twice, a conference that features imports below 6-foot-10. Various profiles online list him as 6-foot-7, but the mentor said that he comes in at 6-foot-6 by the league.
That seemed just perfect since it is the height limit set for this season’s edition of the Governors’ Cup. How come it didn’t materialize?
“What ended up happening was, the commissioner said that the import can’t be 6-foot-6. He had to be under 6-foot-6.” Black said.
“Balkman was measured at 6-foot-6 the last time he was here, and I still believe he’s under 6-foot-6.”
But it was also through Balkman, in a way, that led them to Tony Bishop.
“So we couldn’t recruit him, and he was playing in Puerto Rico, and guess who his teammate was in Puerto Rico? It was Tony Bishop,” said Black as the two were teammates at Mets de Guaynabo in Baloncesto Superior Nacional.
“So, we said, well, Tony Bishop is the leading scorer in that team, not Renaldo Balkman. So, why don’t we try to recruit Tony Bishop to come over,” the cage legend added.
“And that’s how we got to recruit him.”
It would’ve been nice had Balkman returned to the PBA, but there’s no denying that Meralco got itself a keeper in Bishop. He led them to a semis Game 3 win on Sunday evening to move closer to the Finals.
The Panamanian finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds.
Bishop just feels thankful for everything that Balkman told him before flying over to the Philippines. This is his second stint in Asia since playing for Kanazawa Samuraiz in the third division of the B.LEAGUE in 2017.
“Balkman told me about everything. That is my guy,” he said.
“We were in the finals in Puerto Rico, we ended up losing 4-2, but we got there. He told me everything, he gave me the blueprint about how they play here, how everyone plays here, the defense, the aggressiveness of everybody,” he continued.
“He told me about everything. Before coming in, I already knew about the league,” said the 32-year-old, who has spent much of his pro career playing in Puerto Rico and Europe.
“I was thankful for Balkman.”
The second game of each playdate is also livestreamed on SMART Sports.