Gilas Pilipinas’ rivals, including superpower France, have already came up with their respective training pools for the Manila Olympic Qualifying Tournament set from July 5 to 10 at the Mall of Asia Arena, expressing their readiness to go all out for the lone Rio de Olympics ticket at stake.
While Utah Jazz starting center Rudy Gobert and Orland Magic sharpshooter Evan Fournier have already declined to join them in the Manila qualifiers, the Frenchmen, collectively known as Les Blues, could still have the likes of crack NBA veterans like San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker, back-up forward Boris Diaw and versatile Charlotte Hornets wingman Nicolas Batum, making them a genuine force to be reckoned with.
New Zealand, the other country bracketed with Gilas Pilipinas and France in Group B, will miss the services of Oklahoma City Thunder big man Steven Adams but the Tall Blacks remain a potent crew behind high-scoring guard Corey Webster and promising forward Isaac Fotu.
Youthful Canada, perennial contender Turkey and African powerhouse Senegal could also tap their top guns seeing action in the NBA, making Group A an open battle.
But that’s the least of Ranidel De Ocampo’s concerns, sounding unfazed of the top caliber players he could face in the Manila OQT.
“Pare-pareho lang naman na mga tao ‘yan,” he said on Saturday at the end of Gilas Pilipinas’ third training in four days at the Meralco gym in Ortigas, Pasig City.
Asked if there’s a certain player he’s eager to face, De Ocampo, 34, quickly said: “Wala naman.Hindi namin iniisip ‘yun.”
What De Ocampo has been focusing on is adapting to the new set of offensive and defensive drills being conducted by Gilas Pilipinas American-Kiwi mentor Tab Baldwin.
“Sa ngayon, medyo hindi pa gan’un kapulido ang ginagawa namin. Pero kahit papaano naman, may nangyayari naman na maganda. Kahit papaano, nag-i-improve naman ‘yung mga ginagawa namin,” said the Tropang TNT stalwart.
De Ocampo added he’s already looking forward to see a complete Gilas lineup since their other teammates from Rain or Shine and Alaska, which recently figured for the 2016 PBA Commissioner’s Cup title, are given ample time to rest and recover.
Even his Tropang TNT teammate, Troy Rosario, is not around since he has been tapped to boost the Gilas cadets in the SEABA Cup that gets going on Sunday in Bangkok, Thailand.
“Tuesday sila darating,” he said, referring to the likes of Aces star Calvin Abueva and Painters top guns like Jeff Chan, Gabe Norwood and Paul Lee. “Kahit naman nu’ng Wednesday pa lang, gusto na namin makumpleto kaso hindi naman pwede (dahil may PBA finals).
“Sana makumpleto na agad kami. Kaso matagal pa yun kasi wala pa yung iba. Gaya ni Troy may laro naman sa SEABA. Kulang kulang pa talaga,” said De Ocampo. – By Jerome Lagunzad
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