MANILA, Philippines – Ranidel De Ocampo had long been contemplating hanging up his Pilipinas jersey for good, especially after suffering from a back injury late last year. But after Gilas Pilipinas found themselves eliminated from the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in the group stage, De Ocampo decided it was time to wrap up his international career.
“Sa tingin ko ito na talaga 'yung sign na kailangan ko na talagang magpahinga sa Gilas kasi hindi na rin ako masyadong nakakalaro tapos kaunti na lang yung minuto,” De Ocampo spoke Wednesday, July 6, after the Philippine national men’s basketball team’s 89-80 loss to New Zealand.
“At the same time marami na rin mga bagong player na pwede na maglaro.”
(I think this is really a sign that I need to retire from Gilas because I don’t play much anymore and I get little minutes. At the same time there are plenty of new guys who can play.)
He made it official later on, posting an announcement on his Twitter account during the wee hours of Thursday, July 7: “I officially announce my goodbye of playing in Gilas Pilipinas Basketball #PUSO.”
I officially announce my goodbye of playing in Gilas Pilipinas Basketball! #PUSO — Ranidel De Ocampo (@jutaca33) July 6, 2016
Gilas head coach Tab Baldwin replied to the tweet: “Thank you for your service, commitment and class. It’s been a privilege to work with you as both a player and person.”
@jutaca33 Thank you for your service, commitment and class. It's been a privilege to work with you as both a player and person. — Tab Baldwin (@iHob1111) July 6, 2016
De Ocampo played just 33 seconds and missed his lone field goal attempt versus the Tall Blacks in the FIBA OQT. Against France he had 3 points, two rebounds, two assists, and 3 turnovers in over 15 minutes as he slowly digressed from his once prominent role in the team.
For Gilas 4.0, he focused instead on being a leader and a voice of reason, particularly for tough times such as when the Kiwis were overpowering them Wednesday.
“Sinasabi ko sa kanila na huwag sumuko, don’t give up, kaya pa natin yan. Pero sa nakikita ko sa mga teammates ko hindi naman sumuko e. Talagang binigay yung lahat. Ganoon talaga e. Mas lumabas yung laro ng kalaban.”
(I told them not to give up, don’t give up, we can still do it. I saw in my teammates they never did give up. They gave it their all. It happens. The opponent played better.)
Gilas playmaker and De Ocampo's TNT teammate Jayson Castro is likewise mulling retirement from the national team. In a brief interview after the game, Castro said, in response to a question on whether or not fans will still see him with Gilas: "Siguro this is my last na."
If there is anybody who could speak with much weight about not giving up, it’s De Ocampo – given his dedication and commitment to return from his back injury and play one more time for the national team.
The 34-year-old versatile forward served flag and country beginning at the 2003 Southeast Asian Games.
He has been to many battles here and across oceans, he witnessed the national team evolve into the Asian contender it is today. He has been a part of the team’s progress and success in more ways than one.
Now, he is ready to pass on the baton.
In these last months with Gilas, De Ocampo played witness to the rise of his heir apparent: the equally multifaceted Troy Rosario.
In a documentary by FIBA OQT coveror TV5, De Ocampo bared how he immediately saw Rosario’s potential to take his place.
“Alam mo kasi dati pag may nagi-interview sa akin na ‘o Ranidel, sino sa nakikita mo papalit sayo?’ hindi ako makasagot talaga ng diretso e,” he explained of his 24-year-old, 6-foot-7 Tropang TNT teammate.
“Simula nung Gilas 3.0, pag may nagtatanong, talagang buong buo ko nang sinasabi na nakikita ko si Troy Rosario yung talagang papalit sa akin.”
(Before when someone would interview and ask me who I thought could replace me, I could not give a straight answer. But by Gilas 3.0, when someone asks, I confidently tell them I see Troy Rosario as the guy who can take my place.)
Rosario has long idolized De Ocampo since college and both men found inspiration in each other’s comeback journeys from injuries in their careers.
“Hindi ko alam anong meron sa Gilas kung bakit hindi ko matiis (I don’t know what’s with Gilas that I can’t say no to it),” De Ocampo said in the documentary.
De Ocampo, who leaves Gilas Pilipinas confident that the team is in good hands, will be missed as a key figure of the national team.
His slick, timely and clutch 3-pointers as well as his smooth, balanced moves around the basket will now be filed under nostalgia. More than that, what will be missed most is his wisdom, mentorship, and his class as a player and a man.
“Proud naman ako sa mga nai-contribute ko sa Gilas, sa bansa natin,” he said nearing midnight, before later obliging fans calling out his name outisde the Mall of Asia Arena for photos and autographs.
“At habang buhay ko ‘tong itre-treasure at ipagmamalaki. Sobrang proud ako doon.”
(I’m proud of what I’ve contributed to Gilas, to our country. I will forever treasure and take pride in that. I’m very proud of it.) – Rappler.com