For the TNT Katropa faithful who was either watching from the bleachers of the Ynares Center in Antipolo or from their television set, it was peculiar not to see a tall, bearded man wearing jersey number 33 for TNT.
It was defiinitely weird not seeing Ranidel De Ocampo with the Texters after nine long years.
De Ocampo had been dealt by TNT to sister team Meralco Bolts through a three-team trade last Monday — a move that surprised many, given the fact that he helped the franchise collect six championships, including a Perpetual Trophy.
Wednesday marked the beginning of the Katropa’s life without him. His absence was hardly felt, however, as they came out victorious over another sister team NLEX Road Warriors, 112-107 — a win that booked them a spot in the playoffs.
But for Jayson Castro, playing without De Ocampo — with whom he has also played with in Gilas Pilipinas on multiple occasions, including a silver medal finish in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship — brought him strange feelings.
“Nakakapanibago,” shared the 31-year-old after the match.
“Kasi siya yung team captain namin, siya yung vocal, yung leadership niya, at the same time parang siya yung pinaka-anchor namin kasi siya yung beterano namin.
“Hindi mo naman mapapalitan ang isang Ranidel eh,” declared Castro. “Pero kailangan namin mag-move on… Kasi ganun talaga yung basketball, ‘di ba? ‘Di natin control.”
As De Ocampo bade goodbye to the Katropa, the team suffered yet another blow in terms of leadership. Asked if this is the time for him to become more of a leader, Castro said that the team still has a lot of leaders to rely on.
“Tinatry ko naman, pero siyempre iba pa rin yung Ranidel at Jimmy [Alapag] before,” he said. “Alam niyo naman na hindi ako ganun ka-vocal, sa game lang talaga. [Pero] Meron namang Harvey [Carey], Kelly [Williams], Ryan [Reyes].
“Sila yung mga ano (leaders) namin ngayon, so maganda pa rin.”
Losing one of the game’s best forwards will be tough to move on from. But for Castro and the team, all they have to do is to take it, move forward, and continue to play, as these kinds of deals will always be part of the business.
“Yun nga yung sabi ni Ranidel. Isang advice niya sa’min is i-accept namin kaagad and mag-move on na lang,” shared the soft-spoken point guard. “Kung sino yung mga nandito, sila na lang yung siguro yung inaano namin.
“Tsaka [meron namang kaming] magandang team naman e. Kailangan na lang i-maximize yung potential ng iba.”