Dawn of a new TNT » Manila Bulletin Sports

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By Jonas Terrado

Games Friday
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:15 p.m. – Alaska vs Meralco
7 p.m. – GlobalPort vs Star

The trade that sent Ranidel de Ocampo to the Meralco Bolts earlier this week signaled the end of an era for TNT KaTropa – and possibly the dawning of a new one.

De Ocampo became the second prominent TNT veteran to be traded this season after Larry Fonacier was shipped to NLEX last conference, deals that further strengthened the change that has undergone in the MVP group’s flagship franchise.

First-year coach Nash Racela’s youth movement has resulted in a some sort of success for the KaTropa, falling short against the San Miguel Beermen both times in the Philippine Cup semifinals and the Commissioner’s Cup finals.

Rookie forward Roger Pogoy has benefited from such emphasis, figuring prominently in the TNT rotation. Anthony Semerad, acquired from GlobalPort in the Fonacier trade, has been a steady role player since his arrival while Norbert Torres and Justin Chua could be given chances to shine after they were sent by Phoenix and Meralco, respectively, to complete the De Ocampo deal.

Torres and Chua are additional frontline help for the KaTropa, who already have two sophomore big men in Troy Rosario and Mo Tautuaa. Guard RR Garcia, currently injured, is another young player who has been given significant minutes since joining the team from San Miguel last conference. Still, TNT continues to resolve its offense around Jayson Castro, who remains one of the PBA’s best guards, while 11-year veteran Kelly Williams seems to have found his niche under Racela after a few adjustments.

But there might be a weird feeling seeing a TNT teams sans De Ocampo in last night’s Governors’ Cup game against NLEX at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

De Ocampo was one of the cornerstones of the TNT teams that won six championships from 2009 to 2015 along with Fonacier, Castro, Williams, Ryan Reyes, Harvey Carey, beloved guard Jimmy Alapag and coaches Chot Reyes, Norman Black and Jong Uichico.

That group nearly won the Grand Slam under Reyes in 2011, falling to the Petron Blaze Boosters in the Governors’ Cup. They, nevertheless, completed the PBA’s first Philippine Cup three-peat in 2013 with Black at the helm.

TNT ended this period with Uichico guiding the team to a championship in the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup. But that feat was completed without Alapag, who initially made his first retirement only to make a return later that year to play for Meralco.

The change within the TNT camp had slowly begun then, and it has became evident now.

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