After Game Six, Talk ‘N Text forward Ranidel De Ocampo acknowledged that his stint with the SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national team alongside Kelly Williams and Jimmy Alapag might have begun to take its toll on them.
“Siguro sa pagod na rin. Kami nina Kelly and Jimmy yung mga halos walang pahinga sa PBA dahil naglaro kami ng FIBA Asia and Jones Cup tapos tuloy-tuloy rin kami sa finals, pang-limang sunod na,” he said when asked about their struggles in the series against B-MEG.
Talk ‘N Text coach Chot Reyes said that the three actually had a hard time accepting that.
“They were trying to deny it to themselves and set it aside, actually,” said Reyes. “Because of the character of these guys, I think they were really trying to tell themselves that they were okay and play through it.”
But their well-documented struggles in the series are difficult to deny, particularly offensive cornerstones Alapag and De Ocampo, whom Reyes famously called out as on “a vacation” earlier in the series.
But according to SMART-Gilas’ naturalized center Marcus Douthit, their decision to give up what was supposed to be a much-needed break between PBA seasons to don the national team colors wasn’t wrong, even with the benefit of hindsight.
“It just shows where their hearts are at and where their commitment is at as far as the country goes,” said Douthit after the Tropang Texters practice session. He has been helping the squad out in the series as part of the scouting team to prepare for B-MEG.
“It’s all about the country first for them,” he added.
Douthit reminded that the three players actually started attending SMART-Gilas practices even before their season ended last year.
“It felt great to have them there. Some guys backed out. Even NBA guys, they back out and don’t do it,” said Douthit. “But Kelly, Jimmy and Ranidel, they stuck through it. And Ranidel, he played through a broken nose through the entire tournament.”
“That shows a lot of leadership from all three guys. My hat’s off to all three of them. And I’m just glad that we have guys like that in the PBA where they don’t put themselves first. I wish we had more guys like that.”
Reyes, though, believes that it shouldn’t play a factor in Game Seven, especially with De Ocampo breaking out of his slump in the previous game.
“That’s all now going to be under the rug because there’s just one game left now,” Reyes said.
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