De Ocampo saddened as Pingris begs off from Gilas

MANILA, Philippines – Ranidel de Ocampo expressed his sadness over longtime Gilas Pilipinas teammate and friend Marc Pingris, who begged off from the team this time around to reportedly focus on the Star Hotshots' campaign in the PBA next season.

Both already over 30 years old, De Ocampo revealed that the pair was looking forward to teaming up again in one of their potential last tours of duty for the national team.

"Siyempre malungkot," the 33-year old forward told Rappler in a text message. "Kasi nag-usap kami bago siya pumunta sa France na gusto nga namin ulit magkasama-sama at hindi na kami sigurado baka last na Gilas na namin ito."

(Of course, I'm sad. We spoke before he left for France that we want to play together again because we aren't sure anymore, this may be our last Gilas stint.)

Pingris, also 33, decided to skip Gilas duties this time around, formally speaking with head coach Tab Baldwin during practice Saturday night, August 15.

The veteran forward initially took a leave of absence from Gilas due to a scheduled trip to France to visit his family. He arrived back in Manila last Wednesday, August 12, and was expected to show up at practice the following day.

But Pingris never appeared, and it was reported that he will not be taking part in the team as it vies for the gold, and the Olympics berth at the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship this September in Changsha, Hunan, China.

De Ocampo, who is close friends with Pingris, said they did not speak about the decision to skip Gilas. 

"Basta ang masasabi ko lang e sa RP youth pa lang magkasama na kami niyan at alam ko kung gaano niya kamahal ang Pilipinas basketball team (What I can say is we've been together since the RP youth team and I know how much he really loves the Philippine basketball team)," said De Ocampo, who competed with Pingris during the 2013 FIBA Asia held in Manila where they won the silver medal.

They also saw action together in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain and in the Incheon Asian Games.

The loss of the 6-foot-4 Pingris is the latest in a series of blows to the Gilas pool, which saw players beg off from duty including June Mar Fajardo (foot injury) and LA Tenorio (fatigue, health reasons).

A rash of injuries also hit the struggling squad with Kelly Williams suffering an MCL injury, naturalized center Andray Blatche with prostatitis and De Ocampo himself still recovering from a right hamstring injury.

Chief Gilas Pilipinas patron Manny V. Pangilinan did not hide his disappointment over the state of the team barely two months before the continental tilt.

Sad day for Phil basketball. But thank you to the teams which helped the national cause. Laban Pilipinas. Puso. — Manny V. Pangilinan (@iamMVP) August 14, 2015

– Rappler.com