With less than a month left before the Manila Olympic Qualifying Tournament, Gilas Pilipinas mainstay Ranidel De Ocampo said the Nationals have no other choice but to make the most of the remaining days on their preparations that will be highlighted by a three-country European swing starting this weekend.
After taking on familiar Asian rival Iran in a pair of tuneup matches on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Nationals’ preparations will shift to higher gear starting on Friday when they leave for Greece for a nine-day, high-altitude training camp in Karpenisi.
Then Gilas Pilipinas will play a friendly against the Turkey national team before flying to Italy to join a pocket tournament, hoping it will be in sharpest form in time for the July 5-10 cage event at the Mall of Asia Arena which dangles a coveted berth for this year’s Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympic Games.
The 6-foot-6 De Ocampo, 34, said the Euro training camp will definitely serve the Nationals in good stead, something that they failed to accomplish last year in their build-up for the FIBA Asia cage wars in China where they finished as bridesmaid to the hosts.
“Para sa akin, kailangan namin itong training na ito na hindi namin nagawa sa Gilas 3. Kasi last time, hindi natuloy,” he said, referring to their supposed training camp in Turkey which was scrapped, forcing them to join a four-nation pocket tourney in Estonia and the Jones Cup in Taipei where they also finished second overall behind powerhouse Iran.
“Ngayon, matutuloy kahit medyo masikip sa schedule. Nagawan pa rin ng paraan, nasingit. Malaking bagay ‘yun, lalo na magagaling at malalakas ‘yung kalaban namin,” added the Tropang TNT veteran.
The only player who could make it in all four Gilas teams, De Ocampo added the Nationals should also make the remaining days count.
“Masyadong mabilis yung araw, ‘di ba? Hindi natin namalayan isang buwan na lang pala, laro na. Pagkakasyahin na lang namin ‘yung isang buwan namin, maging quality lahat ng gagawin namin. Kailangan masulit namin ‘yun,” he stressed.
Although Gilas coach Tab Baldwin has refused to make a bold assessment on how far they have come since they started training three weeks ago, De Ocampo said he’s showing positive signs among everyone else.
“Hindi ko lang ma-ano yung porsyento, pero sa mga sinasabi naman niya sa akin, nararamdaman niya na at nakikita niya na may nangyayari at nag-iimprove. Sa lahat naman ng ginawa namin nung nakaraan, lahat maganda,” he said.
Going up against the Iranians, sans their prized ‘Big 3,’ should help the Nationals get a taste of the international play anew according to De Ocampo. Gusto lang namin na maka-experience ulit ng laro ng international. Kailangan namin talaga ‘to. Gusto namin magawa yung mga gusto naming gawin. ‘Yung sa Araneta (Coliseum on Wednesday), real game na talaga ‘yun,” he said. – By Jerome Lagunzad
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