In a sudden twist of fate, powerhouse TNT was left searching for an import a day before the 2017 PBA Commissioner’s Cup gets going.
And veteran big man Ranidel De Ocampo is hoping the KaTropa could find nothing less than a “better” replacement to one-time Best Import awardee Denzel Bowles who was given the pink slip Wednesday due to “personal issues” by TNT team management.
“Sana makakuha kami ng better import. Hinihintay pa namin. Sana maka-tyempo kami, maswertihan namin ‘yung (magaling na import),” said the 6-foot-5 De Ocampo on Thursday following TNT’s come-from-behind 87-84 victory over Star in a tuneup match at the Ronac Gym in San Juan.
Bowles, who had four stops with the Hotshots including a title run back in the 2012 Commissioner’s Cup, played for a pair of tuneup matches with TNT against Mahindra and Phoenix, but has reportedly struggled to deal with his attitude problem that caused the KaTropa to be alarmed.
Even De Ocampo, toning it down as best as he can, attested to that, saying: “Siguro masyado lang siya naapektuhan nung nawala siya sa Star.
“Gusto niya makabalik. Kaso sa kagustuhan niyang makabalik, marami siyang iniisip. ‘Yung kalaban niya mentally talaga. Parang hindi na niya nakayanan, nai-stress siya. Pati kami nadadamay. Kaya kailangan na niya umuwi.”
In contrast, Star import Tony Mitchell should be one of the imports to watch, according to De Ocampo.
“‘Yung import nila, wala pa sa timing, hindi pa full ‘yung potential pero sa tingin ko, ‘yung import nilang si Mitchell, magiging okay rin ‘yan,” he said.
Despite the unwelcoming development, De Ocampo was still left pleased with how the KaTropa, sans top gun Jayson Castro and three others, charged back from a double-digit deficit and uncorked 14 straight points in a strong windup against the Hotshots.
“Sa tingin ko malaking bagay yun na kahit wala kaming import, nakuha namin ‘yung goal namin na gawin ‘yung mga tama sa loob and at the same time, ibang players namin nag-step up,” he said.
“Gumawa sila ng paraan para makapag contribute. Malaking bagay yun sa amin halimbawa ‘yung import namin ma-foul trouble, ma-injure o ma-suspend like before.”
And De Ocampo is hoping he and the rest of the KaTropa will continue to flash that same form if and when Castro, along with fellow Gilas call-ups Troy Rosario and rookie Roger Pogoy, gets pulled out for the national team cause in the course of the import-laced tourney.
If things fall according to plan, the KaTropa should earn another chance to stop a title drought that’s already spanning five conferences since ruling the mid-season tournament back in 2015 under former coach Jong Uichico.
“Hindi lang namin kami ang apektado na wala ‘yung ibang players. Halos pare-pareho lang. Ang gusto namin, makabalik sa finals at manalo ng championship,” said De Ocampo.
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