THE departure of skipper Jonas Villanueva marks a new beginning for Mark Barroca, who now takes over as the full-time starting guard for San Mig Coffee beginning in the PBA Commissioner's Cup.
And Barroca is ready to rise to the occasion.
“Sinasabi nga sa akin ng mga teammates ko na pagkakataon ko na rin ito na ipakita yung kaya ko,” Barroca told Spin.ph, a few days after San Mig parted with Villanueva, JC Intal and Aldrech Ramos in a blockbuster deal involving four other teams.
"Kaya ako, nagpapakundisyon din talaga."
The No. 5 pick overall of the 2011-2012 draft has blossomed in his second season with the Mixers, raising his averages in almost every department and playing well enough to earn a share of starting duties in the season-opening Philippine Cup.
The 26-year-old sophomore playmaker averaged 9.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.1 steals in 27.29 minutes over 21 games - far better compared to his 5.37 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.1 assist in 17.42 minutes he had in 62 games as a rookie.
Barroca also stepped up when a bout with dengue fever kept Villanueva out of the lineup in the semifinal series against Rain or Shine, logging 33.5 minutes a game while holding his own against the Painters' deep backcourt.
Villanueva's departure therefore marks a changing of the guard for the Mixers, with coach Tim Cone counting on the former Far Eastern University playmaker to continue to blossom as a starter.
The Zamboanga-born Barroca knows a big responsibility has been put on his shoulders, but he insists he will be up to the task. He also welcomed the arrival of rookie Alex Mallari from Petron, saying the wiry guard has a major role to play in the reshuffled backcourt.
“Siyempre, maliit ako, so minsan popostehan din ako ng malalaking guards," he said. "Kaya malaki ang maitutulong ni Alex sa team."
The Mixers begin their Commissioner’s Cup title defense when they clash with Barako Bull in one of two opening-day games on February 8 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.