MERALCO flaunted its newfound frontline depth that came in handy in its 103-98 win over Blackwater in their PBA Philippine Cup debut on Friday night.
After dismal performances in the last two editions of the all-Filipino conference, the Bolts turned to new recruits Niño Canaleta, Jason Ballesteros, and Mac Baracael who conspired with holdover big men Reynel Hugnatan and Bryan Faundo in holding the fort against the tall Elite.
That allowed Ranidel de Ocampo to sit pretty on the bench as he continues to recover from a calf injury that has sidelined him since Game Four of the last Governors’ Cup Finals against Ginebra.
“Kaya naman nandyan si KG, si Baracael, si Reynel, si Jason Ballesteros, si Faundo, lahat. Kaya sila nandyan para nagtutulungan kami,” De Ocampo said after his team outrebounded the Elite, 55-46. “At the same time, good addition sila para sa team.”
Asked if they’ll be a scarier and more towering team when he comes back, the 6-foot-5 stretch forward agreed, but stressed there are taller and stronger teams, obviously referring to San Miguel Beer and Barangay Ginebra.
“Oo naman, pero syempre, hindi naman natin maitatanggi na mas malakas talaga 'yung mga malalaking team, ‘di ba?” De Ocampo said. “So gagawan na lang namin ng paraan.
“Ako, sa sarili ko naman, kailangan namin siguraduhin na pagbalik namin, ready na ready kami,” he added.
De Ocampo is targeting next month for his return from injury.
“Hindi pa siya one-hundred percent, pero nararamdaman ko na na gumagaling na siya, tapos medyo pinu-puwersa ko siya ngayon,” De Ocampo said. “Nilalagpasan ko yung limit niya kung hanggang saan. Yung scar tissue niya, inii-stretch ko para mapuwersa siya at malaman kung kakayanin yung mahihirap na movement.”
“Sa tingin ko mga January, makakalaro na ako,” he added.