EVEN in the absence of one of his main men, coach Jong Uichico still remains upbeat about Talk ‘N Text’s campaign in the Smartbro-PBA Philippine Cup.
The soft-spoken mentor sees the rest of the team – especially its bigs – stepping up to help fill the void left by veteran power forward Ranidel de Ocampo, who suffered a herniated disc while doing gym work on Sunday.
The incident described by Uichico as ‘unfortunate’ will have De Ocampo out of commission for six to eight weeks.
“Everybody needs to step up not individually, but collectively. And it doesn’t necessarily need to be in terms of points, but also in rebounds, defense, effort, among others,” said Uichico, who visited the 33-year-old big man at the Makati Medical Center on Monday afternoon.
But the tough warrior that de Ocampo is, Uichico sees the longtime Gilas Pilipinas stalwart coming out as good as new following the incident.
“He’s okay now, he’s been moving slowly, but generally, he’s feeling well now,” he said.
On Monday, a tweet from his attending orthopaedic surgeon, Mark Castro, revealed de Ocampo has sat down for the first time since the incident on Sunday afternoon.
The Talk ‘N Text coach refused to pinpoint who specifically he expects to take over at least even half of what De Ocampo has been bringing to the team.
But he did say the injury to De Ocampo again left the Tropang Texters without another solid big man at the frontcourt.
“Kulang talaga kami sa bigs, even more with Ranidel’s absence,” said the champion coach.
De Ocampo had big numbers of 26 points and 15 rebounds in a 114-98 loss by the Tropang Texters to the Alaska Aces in their season debut last week.
Kelly Williams also has yet to suit up in the all-Filipino conference following the MCL injury he suffered during the first day of Gilas Pilipinas’ practice for the Fiba Asia Championship, although the 6-foor-4 former league MVP is already practicing with the team, according to Uichico.
“But you know, ayaw din naman natin siyang madaliin. Until he’s comfortable playing again, then that’s the time we’ll finally have him play,” he said.
The same thing goes for De Ocampo.
“Of course, we hope he can come back earlier. But we’re not going to hurry his comeback,” added Uichico.
The Talk ‘N Text coach initially thought it was just a minor injury which De Ocampo suffered while the team was doing gym work on Sunday afternoon.
“I didn’t realize how bad it was until I was told that he was not moving and was suffering excruciating pain. That’s the time I really got worried,” Uichico recalled.