Playing for only 33 seconds in Gilas Pilipinas’ do-or-die match against New Zealand on Wednesday night was enough reason for long-time national team mainstay Ranidel De Ocampo to call it quits.
The 6-foot-5 De Ocampo, 34, announced his retirement from national duty moments after Gilas Pilipinas suffered a stinging 80-89 setback dealt by the Tall Blacks in the Manila Olympic Qualifying Tournament, quashing any hopes left on the Nationals side bidding to make it to next month’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
I officially announce my goodbye of playing in Gilas Pilipinas Basketball! #PUSO
— Ranidel De Ocampo (@jutaca33) July 6, 2016
“I officially announce my goodbye of playing in Gilas Pilipinas Basketball!” posted De Ocampo on his personal Twitter account (@jutaca33), ending with a familiar hashtag ‘PUSO.’
Although De Ocampo has ample reasons to keep his head up, many would be convinced that it was a sorry finish for the only Pinoy cager who’s been part of the four Gilas teams since the country’s basketball program was revived in 2010 through the leadership of Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Manny V. Pangilinan.
“Sa tingin ko ito na talaga ‘yung sign. Kailangan ko na magpahinga sa Gilas kasi hindi na ako masyadong nakakalaro, konti na lang ‘yung playing time and at the same time may mga batang player na pwede na maglaro,” De Ocampo told sports scribes while on his way to their team bus waiting outside the Mall of Asia Arena.
Long considered as one of Gilas’ key big men with his deft touch from the outside and defensive smarts, De Ocampo admitted he’s proud with what he has contributed to the national team, including a trip back to the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain two years ago when they also won the country’s first match in over three decades.
“Proud naman ako sa na-contribute ko sa Gilas at sa bansa natin. Habang buhay ko itong ite-treasure at ipagmamalaki,” he said. “Sa lahat ng nilaruan kong national teams, proud naman ako doon sa mga nagawa ko, sa mga sakripisyo ko sa bansa natin.”
While he’s ready to step aside for the Young Turks, De Ocampo is convinced he’s leaving Gilas program in good hands—so long as the country’s top basketball stakeholders will sustain what’s been an effective formula.
“Sa tingin ko hanggat andyan ‘yung mga sumusuporta—mga kababayan natin, ‘yung managament, ‘yung SBP at gobyerno, sa tingin ko yung Gilas in good hands pa rin,” he said. “Ituloy lang ‘yung programa, tapos gumawa ng paraan at mas magandang programa pa, sa tingin ko mas mag-i-improve pa.”
Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin could only be grateful with De Ocampo’s passion in representing the country.
“@jutaca33 Thank you for your service, commitment and class. It’s been a privilege to work with you as both a player and person,” he replied. – By Jerome Lagunzad
Follow this writer on Twitter: @JLFoxSports