AFTER a promising and fruitful rookie year in NCAA Season 94, Mapua big man Warren Bonifacio vows to use his gained experience and confidence to lead the Cardinals to a deeper run next year.
The Cardinals finished the season at sixth place with a 6-12 win-loss record in their rebuilding year.
After posting a solid statline of 10.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.0 blocks in 26.2 minutes per game in four starts in his rookie year, Bonifacio has a promise for Mapua next season.
“Ipapangako ko siguro na mas maraming panalo kasi ngayon rebuilding pa lang kami,” said Bonifacio after helping Mapua end its season with a rousing 91-78 victory over Arellano University on Tuesday at the Arena in San Juan City. “Binubuo pa namin kasi puro bago kami sigurado next season magbabago lahat yun mabubuo yung chemistry namin.”
“Tingin ko kasi simula pa lang ngayon pinaghahandaan na namin ‘yung para sa next season kasi yun nga medyo panget ‘yung kinalabasan namin ngayon hindi kami pinalad sa final four pero marami kaming natutunan kaya next season sigurado ako marami kaming mapapahirapan,” he added.
The 20-year-old forward is grateful for the opportunity given to him by Head Coach Atoy Co and the coaching staff and of course, with the help of his teammates.
“Malaking pasasalamat ko sa mga coaches na nagtiwala sa akin na kahit rookie ako binibigyan ako ng chance,” Bonifacio said. “So malaking experience sa akin itong first year ko na marami akong nakalaban na beterano mas lalo akong nagimprove marami akong natutunan sa kanila. Kaya nagpapasalamat din ako sa teammates ko kasi kundi dahil sa kanila di naman magiging ganito laro ko.”
However, it was not easy for the 20-year-old cager transitioning from juniors to seniors division, center to forward and a contender team in Mapua Malayan high school to a rebuilding Cardinals squad.
“Medyo malaking adjustment kasi talagang center ‘yung laro ko nung juniors tapos biglang naging forward na ko ngayon,” the 6-foot-3 forward said. “So thank you kay coach Atoy (Co), coach Ed at coach Randy na talagang pinush nila ako maging forward na laro. Hindi lang puro sa loob magkaroon din sa labas. Sa college lang naman ako nagkakumpiyansa sa labas dahil sa kanila tulong nila yun.”
The former mythical five member in the juniors division managed to adjust playing in a matured man’s league through the motivation of his coaches, hard work and being fearless.
“Lagi nila sinasabi sa akin hindi habambuhay sentro yung laro ko sa kailangan ko magimprove, kaya nagtotodo hard work ako,” he said. “Kasi nung juniors pa lang tinuro na sa akin ng mga coaches ko na dapat laging laban kahit sino man ‘yung kalaban mo, sino man ‘yung katapat mo dapat lagi kang lumaban wag ka magpapatalo kaya ayun hanggang sa college nadala ko yun.”
For Cedric Pelayo, who played his last season with Exe Biteng, he sees Bonifacio carrying the Cardinals back to the Final Four.
“For Warren, I think he has a bright future. Imagine, he is a rookie right now he is almost averaging a double-double some games. He has a bright future still has four more years to play,” Pelayo said. “I believe that sky is the limit for him so I think that he can carry this team to the final four, maybe be the one of the best power forwards in this league, the next couple of years.”
The rookie bravely accepted the challenge from his senior.
“Challenge sa akin yun na kailangan ko lang tanggapin ng tanggapin yung mga sinasabi nila so yun unti unting nagiimprove ako lalo ako magpupursige, lalo akong ginaganahan maghard work kasi maraming nagtitiwala sa akin,” he expressed.
And after a one-week rest, Bonifacio said that the road of the Cardinals to Season 95 will begin right away as they strive for a Final Four appearance next year.
“Expectation ko next year talagang malaki. Sabi nga ni coach one week rest lang tapos balik kami sa training kaagad,” he said. “Paghahandaan namin yung next season kasi gutom na gutom na kami manalo ng final four, makapunta ng finals. So pagbubutihan pa namin maghahard work pa kami para mabuhat yung team namin.”