By Waylon Galvez
Meralco has obtained the services of veteran forward Ranidel De Ocampo in a three-team trade yesterday, giving the Bolts a proven winner and an additional firepower as they aim for their first title in the PBA.
TNT initially dealt De Ocampo to Phoenix Fuel for young center Norbert Torres and a 2017 first round pick in the PBA Rookie Draft (acquired by the franchise in a previous trade with San Miguel Beer).
After that, the Fuel Masters shipped De Ocampo to the Bolts for forward Justin Chua and a first round pick in the Draft. Phoenix completed the deals by sending Chua to TNT for a second round pick in 2019.
The trades were approved by PBA Commissioner Chito Narvasa.
Although they didn’t get a player in the trade, Phoenix Fuel team manager Paolo Bugia said the 2017 pick they received should be valuable, which could end up between fourth-sixth, depending on the finish of Meralco this season.
“We’re hoping to get a big guy in the Draft, and with the pick we got, there is a strong possibility,” said Bugia. “Since we’re eyeing a big guy in the draft, one of the players that would be affected is Norbert, so we agreed to send him to TNT.”
TNT, on the other hand, is on a rebuilding mode, reason why it’s understandable it finally decided to part ways with the now 35-year-old De Ocampo, and got Torres, 27, and Chua, 28.
There were reports that TNT is not done yet, eyeing Kia’s pick in the Draft – possibly No. 1 overall.
The 6-foot-7 Torres and the 6-foot-5 Chua will join a TNT frontline of 6-foot-8 Mo Tautuaa, 6-foot-7 Troy Rosario and 6-foot-6 Kelly Williams. This will be Torres’ third team after Star selected him in 2015, while Chua will be playing for his fifth team after stints with San Miguel, GlobalPort, Meralco and the now defunct Barako Bull.
“The move is part of our rebuilding process,” said TNT team manager Virgil Villavicencio.
As for De Ocampo, Meralco will be his third team. He spent almost his first six seasons in the PBA with former PBA team Air21, which selected him fourth overall in 2004. Air21 traded De Ocampo to TNT in the middle of the 2008-09 Season.
De Ocampo bagged six championships with TNT for nearly 10 seasons where he established a reputation as a deadly scorer and defender.
He likewise blossomed into one of the best stretch fours in the PBA, a power forward who is capable of shooting three-point bombs, an asset that led to his inclusion to Gilas Pilipinas from 2011 to 2016.
With the Bolts, De Ocampo will be reunited with Norman Black, as well as former TNT teammates Jared Dillinger, and Jimmy Alapag, now a member of the team’s coaching staff.
At the moment, Meralco sports a 6-2 card in the Governors’ Cup, and with the arrival of De Ocampo, this bolsters the team’s bid for a return trip to the finals after falling short last season against eventual champion Barangay Ginebra San Miguel. The team has yet to win a title since joining the PBA in 2010.
De Ocampo has career averages of almost 13 points, seven rebounds and two assists.
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