Lipa City, Batangas
April 3, 2015
Tropa ni Barroca
On April Fools Day, Denzel Bowles decided not to fool around.
Bowles unleashed a monster 49-point, 10-rebound, five-assist and two-block effort in powering Purefoods Star to a 100-94 win over Talk N’ Text at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
But sorry, this is not about Bowles and his monstrosity.
Because this is about Mark Barroca.
You see, Barroca made this miraculous shot in a crucial stretch of the game. With the shotclock running out, Bowles heaved a desperate three-pointer that hit the left side of the board. But as the clock winds down, Barroca threw a no-look shot that hits the tip of the ring, bounces up and in the ring to complete one of the most difficult shots I’ve seen in my basketball life.
Circus freaking shot.
But Barroca is not all circus.
Like Bowles, Barroca is all business.
Since he was drafted fifth overall four years ago, the 28-year-old Barroca has won five PBA championships and perhaps another one. Maybe more. He was a member of the PBA Mythical First Team last year, a two-time All-Star, a Finals MVP last year and a PBA Obstacle Challenge winner a season ago.
His statistics are modest as he averaged 8.27 points, 3.31 rebounds, 2.76 assists and 1.26 steals a game but each year he’s improving. Last season, he has normed 12.97 points, 4.44 boards, 4.25 dimes, 1.97 steals and .44 block a game, all career-highs.
What’s nicest about Barroca is that he is as nice inside the basketball court as outside it.
I don’t usually mingle with players and coaches that much and seldom do I befriend them. But I made an exception with the players from Gilas Pilipinas of old under former coach Rajko Toroman. Barroca is one of them.
Before that, Barroca and I were never friends.
But I’ve seen how Barroca became what he is now. He started from humble beginnings. Played in the Palarong Pambansa representing the Zamboanga Peninsula having been a native there. Got recruited by Far Eastern University where he flourished as a player. It was in the Tams that he was discovered to make it to the Gilas team. With Gilas, he was a dynamo. A force of nature that foreign coaches were impressed of his energetic play. It was all up for Barroca.
And then something happened.
In a twist of fate, Barroca was accused of game-fixing. He was being persecuted and viewed as a villain. It was the lowest point of his life. So low that he started to play really bad for Gilas. Good thing Gilas kept the faith. And Barroca never gave up and worked harder to prove his accusers wrong. Myself? Never believed the game-fixing accusation. Not then, not today.
Now look at Barroca now?
Who would have thought he’d make it this far?
I’m planning to resurrect a fan club I will name, guess what? Tropa ni Barroca! Care to join?
Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar
(Photos courtesy of PBA.online.net, purefoodsbasketball.com, Nuki Sabio of PBA Images and philstar.com)