Ranidel major key to Bolts title bid

By Nelson Beltran

MANILA, Philippines — Meralco acquired Ranidel de Ocampo through a trade deal with TNT KaTropa and Phoenix Petroleum Tuesday night with the Bolts determined to chase a first ever championship in the current PBA tourney.

Coach Norman Black said De Ocampo brings versatility and depth in their lineup heading to the crucial stage of the PBA Governors Cup.

“Del will help a lot not only with his size and talent but also with his experience,” said Black of the 6-foot-6 forward whom they acquired in exchange for reserve frontline player Justin Chua and the team’s 2017 first-round draft pick.

Chua ended up with TNT KaTropa along with Norbert Torres and Phoenix Petroleum’s 2017 first round draft pick acquired from San Miguel Beer from a previous trade.

Phoenix, meanwhile, earned a future draft pick each from Meralco and TNT KaTropa.

“I think we would be No. 7 in the draft but we feel it’s worth giving it away for Ranidel whom I feel is still good for two to three more years of high-level play,” Black pointed out.

The Meralco mentor said De Ocampo would fill in their immediate need.

“Del is a good floor spacer with his ability to shoot from the outside. Together with our other shooters, Del will allow Allen (Durham) to move around,” said Black of their power upgrade that could really boost their title aspiration.

Black was not sure on who initiated the trade deal, saying they’re happy to have De Ocampo with them.

“We needed another big man and we kept on searching. Then De Ocampo’s name cropped up,” said Black.

De Ocampo was a key piece in TNT’s six title runs, and he also played a crucial part in Gilas Pilipinas’ rise in international fronts.

The last cut in the 2007 and 2009 Philippine teams, De Ocampo finally landed a spot in the national squad in the 2010 Asian Games and Guangzhou. And he became a fixture in the team all the way to the 2015 Changsha FIBA Asia meet.

De Ocampo attended his first practice session with the Bolts yesterday and he’s happy with the warm reception he had from his new teammates.

“I’m sad I’m leaving TNT KaTropa which had been my family for almost a decade, but I’m also happy I’m with Meralco which intends to give me an important role in their grand plan,” said De Ocampo.   

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