Bolts boosted title aspirations in acquiring Ranidel de Ocampo

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NO other stretch four player in the PBA is better than Ranidel de Ocampo.

A member of the Philippine men’s basketball team many times, the 6-foot-7 De Ocampo is also a proven winner, helping the TNT KaTropa to six championships and being voted Finals Most Valuable Player twice.

So Meralco head coach Norman Black figured out that his former player could help out the Bolts in their quest for another championship run if they would get the services of the pride of Tanza, Cavite.

“We’re doing well this conference even without Ranidel. What more if we will have him,” Black told BusinessWorld in a telephone interview. “It’s a bit off now if we talk about the finals, but we want to make a good push in the playoffs.”

Mr. De Ocampo was acquired by the Bolts in a three-team deal that involved TNT and Phoenix.

The KaTropa shipped Mr. De Ocampo to the Fuel Masters in exchange for Norbert Torres and their first round pick for 2017. Shortly after, Phoenix dealt the 35-year-old forward to Meralco for Justin Chua and the Bolts’ first round draft pick this year.

Meralco is likely to pick late in the first round and Mr. Black believes there’s no other talented player than can match Mr. De Ocampo and pursuing the services of the many-time all-star is the right thing to do.

“Looking at the coming Rookie Draft, we’re picking no. 7 if the Draft is to be held this time, and we felt there’s nobody better than Ranidel at the no. 7 pick,” said Mr. Black.

Last year, the Bolts made their first ever finals appearance in franchise history when the team tapped veteran guard Jimmy Alapag, who helped the team reach the championship round of the Governors Cup before losing to Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings via a heartbreaking buzzer-beating triple from Justin Brownlee.

Mr. Alapag retired as the all-time leader in three-point shot conversions and went on to join Black’s coaching staff before the season starts.

Mr. Black believes tapping Mr. De Ocampo is the logical thing to do, both in their bid to make a return trip to the finals and shore up their front court to be more competitive in next season’s Philippine Cup.

The Bolts wound up with the worst record in the last two stagings of the Philippine Cup and adding a front liner like Mr. De Ocampo would strengthen their campaign in the future.

“We didn’t do well in the last two all-Filipino tournaments and we felt that we need to strengthen our front line to improve our chances in the all-Filipino,” added Mr. Black. — Rey Joble