JOHNNY Abarrientos sees a lot of himself in Mark Barroca.
The 'Flying A' could not hide his admiration for the pint-sized San Mig Coffee sophomore guard, not only for the significant improvement in Barroca's game but also for the hard work he puts in every day in practice.
“Nakikita ko yung sipag at eagerness ko sa kanya eh,” said Abarrientos, pointing out that Barroca is usually the first player to arrive and the last one to leave the gym every San Mig practice.
The 1996 PBA MVP, now an assistant of head coach Tim Cone at San Mig, is also happy with the way his fellow Far Eastern University alumnus has finally found his place in Cone's triangle offense.
“Sa ngayon, malaki na ang ipinagbago (ng laro) ni Mark. Alam na niya ngayon ang role sa team,” said Abarrientos. “Dati kasi scoring point guard talaga si Mark eh. Sa triangle last (offensive) option siya."
“Kasi dati pag hindi siya maka-score, hirap na hirap si Mark na makuha yung laro niya. Ngayon one of the best defensive players siya na point guard at yun ang gusto ni coach Tim sa kanya," Abarrientos added.
Barroca has been one of the best performers for San Mig in the semifinal playoff against Rain or Shine, proving to be Cone's best defensive weapon against Painters star and college batchmate Paul Lee.
Abarrientos, however, said Barroca can't afford to stop learning.
“As long as he keeps believing in the system, maalagaan niya yung faith sa kanya ni coach Tim. Rare na mabigyan ka ng opportunity na ganun,” the league legend said.
“Pero marami pa ring kailangang maintindihan si Mark sa triangle. At sana hindi siya magsawang i-explore yun.”