ERVIN Grospe was not a blue-chip high school recruit, yet he made a tremendous impact for Jose Rizal University that he is now the team captain of the Heavy Bombers in his final year with the squad in NCAA Season 93.
The 23-year-old Grospe is thankful for the trust and confidence that JRU coach Vergel Meneses gave to him not just as a the team captain for this year but also an added threat to the Heavy Bombers on offense.
"Binibigyan lang ako ng kumpiyansa ni coach Vergel na mag-step up din," said Grospe. "Siguro dapat ginagrab ko talaga ('yung opportunity). Tinututukan talaga ako sa practice para iimprove 'yung offense ko."
Incidentally, Meneses' faith in Grospe dates back years ago when he recruited the 6-foot-4 forward during a tryout in Malolos even though he was not a blue-chip recruit, less a high school varsity in his hometown of Guiguinto, Bulacan.
"Sa Bulacan lang talaga ako, never ako nag-varsity doon. Pero nung high school ako, mga 17 years old ako, nasa 6-1, 6-2 na ako. Parang ang ginagawa ko lang sa Bulacan, laro laro lang, larong barangay, inter-town.
Grospe later got a tip from his coach in Guiguinto who knew Meneses that the JRU coach will hold a tryout in nearby Malolos City in search of players for the Heavy Bombers.
"Tapos may kakilala si coach Vergel doon na coach ko, sabi niya, kapag pupunta si coach Vergel sa Malolos, magpapa-tryout daw," said Grospe.
Grospe considers himself as a late-bloomer as it was late in his high school days that he was able to play competitive basketball. So when he attended the tryout, Grospe expected nothing as he was up against players who have better credentials than him.
"Parang fourth-year high school lang talaga ako naglilimahan. Talagang shooting shooting lang, nakikipaglaro lang. Nung nasa Bulacan ako, aral lang at laro-laro lang minsan, dayo dayo lang," said Grospe.
"Tapos nagpatryout si coach Vergel. Ang mga kasabay ko pa noon, mga varsity, hindi ko inexpect na makukuha ako.
It was a shock when Grospe was selected and from there, he vowed to work hard for his spot in the team.
"Nung nakuha ako, siyempre, sabi ko sipagan ko na lang," he added.
Grospe considers himself fortunate with the fate that basketball has brought him after he was recruited by the Heavy Bombers.
"Para sa akin, sobrang saya ko rin na at least, nakarating ako sa ganitong level na malaki naitulong sa family ko kasi naging scholar ako. Masarap na 'yung pinaghihirapan ko, may napapala," said Grospe.
With Paolo Pontejos already done with his college eligibility, JRU has been turning to Grospe for a spark on the offensive end. So far, it is paying off as Grospe's scoring average has slightly increased from 8.4 from last season to 9.3 in four games this season with his increased role.
"Mas nadagdag 'yung laro ko sa post kasi dun nageend-up 'yung play. Dati ball screen lang ako, kapag open, ititira. 'Yun 'yung nadagdag sa akin tapos extra shooting sa practice," said Grospe.
With all his hard work in his final year with the Heavy Bombers, Grospe wants to further repay Meneses' trust this year with a solid showing in Season 93 not only for himself but for the team.
"Gusto ko lang talaga pumasok sa Final Four para naman maganda 'yung exit ko. Para rin sa school para at least, may maipagmalaki para sa school," Grospe said.