HE may not have the same flashy moves or the picture-perfect jumper on court, but Mark Barocca has shown glimpses of brilliance and a work ethic that remind Tim Cone of Johnny Abarrientos - his superstar guard during their championship years with Alaska.
Barroca, the third-year pro out of Far Eastern University, has been doing it all for the San Mig Coffee Mixers this season as he steps up for a team that opened the PBA’s 39th season with injuries to key players and, consequently, only has only a win to show after four outings.
Cone said it’s understandable to see his team struggle this early since they are coming off the PBA Governors Cup championship in late October and only had a week to prepare for the Philippine Cup.
But amid the struggle, Barroca has become one of the few bright spots for San Mig with his improved offense and great court sense - aspects in his game that led Cone to compare him with Abarrientos.
“He’s (Barroca) ready to play every moment, every practice. And skill-wise, they (Barroca and Abarrientos) maybe a little different but the result are very similar,” Cone said proudly of his rising star.
With James Yap, Joe Devance, and PJ Simon sidelined by injuries, the 27-year-old playmaker from Zamboanga currently leads the Mixers in scoring with his 16.5 points per contest, along with 5.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and a team-best 2.7 steals.
“No doubt, he started doing that (strong play) since the Finals of the Governors Cup last season and he just kind of carried that on this season,” Cone told Spin.ph before the team’s Thursday practice at the Ronac gym.
It is no coincidence that Abarrientos himself helps trains Barroca these days as part of his duties as one of Cone's assistants.
“Mark and Johnny, they never take a day off, and you never have to motivate them. You just need to wind him (Barroca) up and let him go,” said Cone.