Bolts to pick EASL imports

Meralco has five games left in its EASL regular season schedule and is itching to bounce back from an opening 89-61 loss to Ryukyu in Okinawa where the Bolts hobbled with single import Prince Ibeh two weeks ago. Under EASL rules, a team may enlist two imports to play together but against the Golden Kings, Meralco couldn’t bring Suleiman Braimoh along because of visa issues.

Braimoh, who holds a Nigerian passport, has a single entry visa issued by the Philippine consulate in Houston where he lives. To travel to other countries for EASL, he will need a multiple entry visa to go in and out of the Philippines. Meralco team manager Paolo Trillo said the lack of a multiple entry visa will prevent Braimoh from leaving the Philippines to play EASL road games. Braimoh is Meralco’s import in the ongoing PBA Commissioner’s Cup.

Trillo said Ibeh was signed up to team with Braimoh for EASL. But with Braimoh’s visa predicament, Meralco brought in another import Zach Lofton who played a game for the Detroit Pistons in the 2018-19 NBA season. If and when Braimoh’s multiple entry visa is issued, he’ll be Meralco’s primary import. The other import will be Ibeh or Lofton. If the visa isn’t issued, Meralco will suit up Ibeh and Lofton for the Bolts’ next EASL game against the New Taipei Kings in Taipei tomorrow. The Bolts are also slated to face Ryukyu in a rematch in Macau on Dec. 13, Seoul SK Knights in Manila on Dec. 27, Taipei in a Manila rematch on Jan. 3 and the Knights in Seoul on Jan. 7.

Braimoh, 34, is a 6-8 power forward from Rice University in Houston. Ibeh, 29, is a 6-10 center from the University of Texas. He has played for GlobalPort and NorthPort in two PBA Commissioner’s Cups. Lofton, 31, is a 6-4 combo guard from Illinois State, Texas Southern and New Mexico State. He played for Detroit and Milwaukee in the NBA Summer League.

Meralco is exploring the option of recruiting an Asian heritage import for EASL. Former Bay Area Dragon players with Asian lineage may be candidates. If Meralco plans to hire an Asian heritage import, it will require approval from the PBA Board of Governors.

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