MANILA, Philippines – Ever since Ranidel de Ocampo won 6 championships and two Finals MVP awards with the TNT KaTropa, fans and pundits expected him to end his storied career with the franchise he had helped become a PBA juggernaut.
However, to everyone's surprise, the veteran forward ended his 9-year stint with the KaTropa after the squad traded him to sister team Meralco Bolts late last season.
That is why it is understandble that De Ocampo has "mixed feelings" when he faced TNT for the first time even if it has already been 8 months since he was shipped to the Bolts.
"Mixed emotions, mixed feelings," said De Ocampo when asked by reporters after meeting his former team.
"Iba na rin sila kasi syempre, marami na silang bagong player. Ilan na lang naman din ang nakasama ko doon e, si Jayson (Castro), Ryan (Reyes), Harvey (Carey), Kelly (Williams) – sila lang naman ang nakasama ko na lang doon dati pa."
(They are a different team now, they have many new players. There are only a few players whom I spent time with in TNT and those are Jayson, Ryan, Harvey and Kelly.)
The 36-year-old was supposed to clash horns with the KaTropa in the Philippine Cup but missed the entirety of the conference due to a calf injury. He also suffered a mild tear on his left Achilles heel early in the Commissioner's Cup.
Fortunately, De Ocampo returned to action with half of the conference finished and he finally got a chance to go up against the KaTropa. But it did not end the way he probably wanted to as Meralco lost to TNT, 85-91, on Friday, June 22.
"Siguro kung magkaharap kami next time, mas magiging maganda 'yung laban katulad nito," said De Ocampo, who had 11 points and 6 rebounds in the defeat.
(Probably if we face next time, it will be a better game.)
With both teams heading into the quarterfinals, De Ocampo is not one to pass up on the opportunity of clashing with his former team deep into the playoffs.
"Siyempre ibang istorya na 'yun 'pag nagkaharap kami sa playoffs. First time namin sila nakaharap ngayon. Siguro sa susunod, mas exciting, mas grabe at mas intense," he said.
(Facing them in the playoffs is a different story. This is the first time I battled against them. Probably the next time, it will be more exciting and more intense.)
Meralco seeks to bolster its bid for a twice-to-beat advantage when it squares off with the league-leading Rain or Shine Elasto Painters on Sunday, June 24, at the Araneta Coliseum for its final elimination round game. – Rappler.com
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.