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Barroca looking forward to Gilas return
Rick Olivares ( - January 17, 2019 - 11:28am

Mark Barroca feels like a rookie again.


Eight years into his PBA career and fresh from a Governor’s Cup Finals MVP award, Barroca is back in the Gilas Pilipinas pool; and it’s déjà vu all over again for the 32-year-old guard.


“Matagal na kasi,” he says, feeling excited about the Gilas pool inclusion by head coach Yeng Guiao.


The last time Barroca suited up for the national team was back in 2011 during the FIBA Asia Championships that also doubled as the Asian qualifiers for the 2012 London Olympics.


The team was then known as “Smart Gilas” and they entered the semi-finals with a 5-1 record having defeated Chinese Taipei in the quarterfinals but were knocked out when they ran into a Tab Baldwin-coached Jordan team, losing 61-75.


There was one more chance to clinch an Olympic slot when they met up with nemesis Korea for the bronze medal. The Philippines played well for 37 minutes but Korea – just as Jordan did in the semi-finals – unleashed a barrage of triples.


There was a chance to salvage a win, but Marcio Lassiter missed a potential-game tying free throw at 69-68. Then naturalized player Marcus Douthit was able to get the rebound but lost it out of bounds sealing the deal for Korea.


Barroca was not fielded during that game, but his pain was seeing his team’s three-year journey come to a bitter end. “Meron nagtapon pa ng silya sa locker room,” he remembered of the disconsolate mood inside the locker room.


Now, he might get another chance to help the country chase a slot; this time to the 2019 FIBA World Cup. If listed in the final 12, Barroca will join his old Smart Gilas teammates Japeth Aguilar and Marcio Lassiter.


“Ang pinaka-memorable na tournament para sa akin bilang national player ay yung 2009 Fiba Asia Champions Cup sa Jakarta,” he shared. “Doon tayo nagpakita ng laro at iba yung samahan ng team noon kasi puro kami mga college player maliban kay CJ Giles (the team’s former naturalized player). Gumagawa pa lang kami ng pangalan namin individually at para na rin sa national team program ng SBP.”


It was during that tournament that several foreign teams inquired about the potential services of Barroca playing for their respective local leagues. Al-Riyadi of Lebanon was one of the more interested teams. But any deal fell through as Barroca was still in college back then.


“Bakit feeling ko rookie ulit,” he said. “Kasi matagal na rin. Nagbago na yung national team at iba yung sistema na tinatakbo. Yung international style of play medyo nagbago. Ngayon medyo mandatory na yung bigs mo meron tira sa labas. At mas athletic mga players ngayon.”


If Barroca was known for his razzle dazzle style of play then, these eight years in the professional leagues and even being a part of former coach Tim Cone’s triangle offense, has tempered his style of play.


Six PBA titles, six PBA All-Star berths, two Finals MVP Awards, a couple of Mythical Team first and second team selections including one in the All-Defensive team, Barroca admits that getting called for national team duty is icing on the cake. “Hindi ko akalain na makakasama pa tayo rito,” he admitted. “Siyempre, am looking forward to playing for Coach Yeng kasi hindi pa ako nakakalaro sa kanya.”


“Tumatanda na rin tayo at baka hindi na mangyari ito ulit,” noted the 32-year old cager for the Magnolia Hotshots.


“Masasabi ko lang na I will give my best for sa bayan at para na rin sa pamilya ko,” Barroca said.

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