Sol Mercado of the Meralco Bolts is the most misunderstood player in the league today. Especially after their 1 point loss to Global Port yesterday, critics/haters went as far as accusing him of game fixing when he went for the 2 point basket while down 3. Those people clearly do not understand who Sol is. One of the most passionate players today, (even while playing 2k on the PS3) as a fan, it makes me cheer for him more to see people doubt him. As someone who knows him personally, it is safe to say that the rest of the league should be scared, cause once he gets it in his system, that the Lebron-esque hate can fuel you to greater heights, oh man.. It is only fitting that we feature the man for Throwback Thursday. Let’s go back to ish 156 where he talks about being a Lebron fan, Gilas and his career.
SOL LOUD by Aaron Atayde
ISSUE #156 APRIL 2012
Meralco Bolts’ starting point guard Sol Mercado is explosive. He explodes towards the rack by doing a killer crossover on the court. He blows up Twitter by posting a booming tweet that makes everyone talk. Explosive. He grabs your attention one way or another.
Sol plays hoops. He talks hoops. Sol is not just a PBA star. He is also a fan. He watches as much as basketball as he can. He watches PBA games. He watches NBA games. He watches PBA D-League games. No game on TV? No problem. He’ll play some NBA 2K12. He is a student of the game through and through.
SLAM PH decided to sit down with Sol to make him talk, talk and talk about the one thing he knows more than anything else: basketball.
SLAM PH: First off, lets start with the NBA. Have you been watching the Miami Heat since the start of the season?
SM: Yeah man, of course! I’m a big time LeBron fan!
SLAM PH: So what do you think of your Heat so far this season?
SM: Well, they are struggling. Honestly, I think that LeBron is playing great basketball and I’m not just saying that because he is my favorite player. I do think that he has developed different aspects of his game and no one in basketball does what he does or can even try to do what he does. They’re struggling because they brought in some other players like Shane Battier, and Dwyane Wade getting hurt. But I do think that they are better without D-Wade, because LeBron and Bosh play great. They were undefeated for a while with Wade out.
SLAM PH: If you were Pat Riley, would you call people up looking to move D-Wade?
SM: Oh hell no! No way. Both of them are used to dominating the basketball. They have only been playing together for one season, but in time, things will eventually come together. They will know which person should dominate the ball. LeBron needs to have to ball in his hands, though. I think Pat Riley needs to get their roles right. They still don’t know, at the end of games, who will take the last shot. But, I still think that they will win the championship and LeBron James will win the MVP.
SLAM PH: You wouldn’t pull the trigger on a Dwight Howard for Dwyane Wade trade right now?
SM: For sure I would! I would do that quick! I mean Dwight Howard is the best big man in the league so that would mean a championship for sure!
SLAM PH: What do you think of the Clippers? Are you liking Lob City?
SM: I love them. Chris Paul is my favorite point guard so I watch them a lot. Blake Griffin is a beast, DeAndre Jordan is a beast, and they are really fun to watch, but they aren’t good without CP3. They lose some games that they should win because of their defense sometimes.
SLAM PH: What about their intercity rival, the Lakers?
SM: I’m not a Laker fan at all (laughs). I think Kobe shoots the ball too damn much. Yeah, he is scoring 40-plus for consecutive games, but you look at how many attempts and how many assists. LeBron, if he shoots that many, he will also have this many assists and that many rebounds. He gives you this, this, and this. If you see Kobe’s stat line, all you see is points. I mean he is still a great player. I just hate when people say that he is better than LeBron because he’s not. To me, he is great, he is definitely one of the greatest players ever, but he can’t do what LBJ does. He just loves shooting that thing.
SLAM PH: But what do they need?
SM: They are the ones that need Dwight Howard. Andrew Bynum is sitting there, talking about being the best big man in the league. He is on crack. Yeah he had a 20-point, 20-rebound game this season, but come on man. We are talking about the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, here. You might be the second-best big man out there, but Dwight is, hands down, the best center in the league.
SLAM PH: Okay, now let’s move on over to the PBA. What do you think of the Cinderella run of Powerade?
SM: I was rooting for Powerade in the Finals, because I love their story and just what they’ve been through. You are the eighth-seed, then you beat top-seeded B-Meg, then you go on to beat a great team in Rain or Shine. That was a great series. With Gary David, JVee Casio, Marcio Lassiter, they are fun to watch. Even though Talk N’ Text is our sister team, I was rooting for Powerade. But Talk N’ Text is just too deep. To go through a grueling series against Rain or Shine, and then have to play against a team that goes 9 or 10 deep on their rotation, is tough. Especially when you only go with a 7- or 8-man rotation.
SLAM PH: What do you think of Gary David? Is he your Best Player of the Conference?
SM: Oh yeah, for sure. What he is doing is amazing. I mean, since Petron is out and Arwind Santos is not in the Finals, I would definitely give it to Gary David.
SLAM PH: You were part of Rain or Shine before and you saw them fall in the series against Powerade. What do you think of that team?
SM: They lost games that they should’ve won. They could’ve won that series in different games. I can’t lie though, I was rooting for Powerade because of their story, but I am close to a lot of the players on the Rain or Shine team. I live with Gabe (Norwood) and I wanted him to go far, but they just lost games that they should’ve won. Powerade looked like they wanted it more than them. You could tell from watching those games that they just wanted it more than them. Rain or Shine, though, is still a great team. They are young, and Coach Yeng Guiao is doing a great job over there with Paul Lee and all those guys.
SLAM PH: Speaking of Paul Lee, compare what you saw at the early part of the season to how he performed towards the end of the semifinals.
SM: I think there is more to him now than what people thought he was. When he came into the league, people were thinking that he’s just a scorer, but he developed now into more of a floor general and now he can run a team. And I appreciate that about him. He wasn’t caught up in scoring. When people were doubling, he was making the right pass. You could tell when you were watching that he was a good teammate. He was helping people get up off the floor, giving high fives, and you could tell that Paul Lee was very supportive of his teammates. I do think that he was exposed a little bit on the defensive end in that series though.
SLAM PH: After what we have seen in the first conference, would you still take JVee Casio over him as the first pick of the draft?
SM: If I was Powerade, yes. You can’t lose with either one of those guys because they are both great, but JVee brings a different aspect to the game. The way he plays fits Powerade’s game perfectly, because they already have guys that can attack the hole with Gary David and then picking Marcio Lassiter. They are very aggressive, and Paul Lee is really aggressive too so it would’ve just been another guy that does the same thing. They wouldn’t have been as successful as they are right now. But, if it were Rain or Shine picking first, I think that Paul Lee would’ve been the number one pick. He just really fits their team. It’s just a matter of who would’ve been picking first.
SLAM PH: What do you think of that guy named Gabe Norwood?
SM: Basketball-wise? I don’t think that he was being utilized the way his game is and I don’t think that people appreciate what Gabe brings to the game of basketball. Everyone sees Gabe and thinks, “You know what? He is 6’5”, athletic, can dribble, and has the tools to dominate the game, especially in the Philippines, but he doesn’t” and people always go off on his potential on what they think he can be. But Gabe isn’t that type of player. Its either you have it or you don’t. The way people think that someone dominates the game is by scoring points, but Gabe is more of point guard. He is more like Magic than Jordan. He wants to get everyone involved. He wants to do all the little things. He wants to make everyone look good and people don’t appreciate that about him. I even saw a tweet that said, “Coach Yeng, if you want to win, you have to sit Gabe Norwood down!” and I was like, “You have no idea what you are talking about.”
SLAM PH: So what would you do as a head couch to get more out of him?
SM: I wouldn’t put him as my point guard. Gabe is much more effective playing the 2 or the 3 on the floor. At the point guard, its pretty much telling him to pass and get everyone else involved by running the offense. When you put him at the shooting guard or small forward position, you’re basically telling him to shoot. He is going to naturally pass the ball because that is the type of player that he is. If you put him at the point though, taking shots won’t even cross his mind. Honestly, I would love to have him play for Meralco if they can make that happen.
SLAM PH: What do you think of that other guy named, Sol Mercado?
SM: He is a clown! If there is one thing that I know about Sol Mercado, it is that he is misunderstood. People look at me and think that I am who I’m not. They don’t know me until they get to know me. People are really intimidated because I have this natural snarl on my face and they see the tattoos on a big guy that plays with a lot of fire and aggression. But, if you come up and talk to me, I’m nice to the fans and to everybody. Come talk to me and you can approach me. I will take pictures, because that’s what I love to do.
SLAM PH: You are the Charles Barkley of the Philippines!
SM: Yeah man! But I swear I really am a nice guy!
SLAM PH: Last thing that we wanted to talk about was this. If you were the head of SMART-Gilas going into the next phase of the program, what would you do?
SM: I would put aside all the pride for the flag. I had an opportunity to play with Gilas and I went to a tournament and I saw the competition that is out there in the Asian Games. If we put together a team of the best players from the professional league, and we actually got time to play with each other, and hire a coach that puts us in a good system, and add a naturalized player like Marcus Douthit, we could be one of the best teams in Asia. I’m not just saying that because I’m Filipino. Just looking at basketball in Asia, there is China, Japan, Korea; we could be really good against those teams.
SLAM PH: Who would be head coach?
SM: I don’t know. Rajko Toroman is a good coach. I think that some of the players didn’t respond to his style as well though. But, even if they did get him back, I would put other good coaches around him like Coach Norman Black, or Coach Chot Reyes, or Coach Ryan Gregorio, just guys that can bring a good culture. But for me, Norman Black would be a good fit at head coach, or maybe Coach Chot. I don’t think that one coach alone can do it though. Even when you look at Team USA or other great teams, there are a variety of good coaches that make an even better coaching staff.
SLAM PH: Who would be your starting five?
SM: Man that’s tough. There are a lot of great players. Jimmy Alapag is kind of undersized for international play, but he would definitely be on the line-up. I would want him on the team for sure because he gets it done. I would like to see Alex Cabagnot, Chris Ross, or Gabe starting for my National team. For the two-guard position, I would get Ryan Reyes or Jason Castro. You need a guy that can defend the bigger guards in international competition.
SLAM PH: Now, for your forwards?
SM: For small forward, I like Jared Dillinger, Marcio Lassiter, or Chris Lutz, guys that can match up well against the international players. At four, I would have Jay Washington, Ranidel de Ocampo, or Joe DeVance. I’d have Kelly in the line-up for sure, but you need those guys that can shoot and extend the floor. That is how bigs in international games play. The fours need to be able to shoot. And then, I would have Marcus Douthit in the middle.
SLAM PH: You wouldn’t start yourself?
SM: Nah. I see myself coming up off the bench.
photos c/o Paolo Papa, Pranz Kaeno Billones, Paul Ryan Tan