HIS stint with Gilas Pilipinas not only gave him a lot of good memories but also developed an unlikely friendship for Jeff Chan.
The veteran Barangay Ginebra guard fostered a close bonding with the now retired Ranidel de Ocampo during their time together donning the national colors.
Their closeness, according to Chan, got him to fully know the man they called RDO.
"Hindi ko naisip na magiging close ako kay Ranidel. Hindi ko pala alam yung ugali niya kasi nung latter part, kami yung halos magka-roomate na, so doon ko siya nakilala," said Chan as he looked back with fondness his time with the national team together with De Ocampo.
The former TnT and Meralco stalwart, who formally retired from the game two months ago at the age of 38, of course, developed a reputation as a mean defender on the court who wouldn't back down from any fight.
Such impression was erased from Chan as he got to meet De Ocampo deep inside.
"Sabi ko, ganito pala siya. Sa court lang pala siya naninira, mga simpleng panira," said Chan giggling.
"Maayos pala (siya). Mabait pala."
The two were together at Gilas from the very start when the Philippines won the Jones Cup title in 2012, finished runner-up in the 2013 FIBA Asia Men's Championship, and then suited up in the 2014 FIBA World Cup which marked the country's return to the so-called Olympics of basketball after a 36-year absence.
Along Gilas' journey developed that strong bond between Jeff and RDO.
"Marami kaming napag-usapan," said Chan of De Ocampo, especially during times when the national team would be outside of the country either training or competing in a tournament.
The two of them called each other 'Toy,' a name not lost on the 37-year-old Chan when he paid tribute to De Ocampo upon his basketball retirement.
"Toy, congrats sa career mo! (PBA and Gilas)," the Bacolod native and Far Eastern University product said in his Instagram account. "Salamat sa mga advice mo nung Gilas days natin, at siyempre, mga kalokohan. Haha.
"Mami-miss ka namin, toy." (RG)