Robert Bolick: The Legacy of the King Lion
Anton Roxas on Jul 02, 2018 06:57 PM
“Gusto ko lang makita nila na winner ako. Na di ako nagpapatalo. Gusto ko maging inspirasyon ako sa mga bangko." - Robert Bolick Jr.
It was a feeling all too familiar.
And one he never ever wanted to feel again in his life.
Robert Lee Bolick Jr. was buried on the bench of the Cignal-San Beda Hawkeyes. It was their first game in the 2017 PBA D-League Aspirant’s Cup. He had thought his days as a benchwarmer were long behind him after leading the San Beda Red Lions to the NCAA Season 92 championship. But, the coach who recruited him to Mendiola, Jamike Jarin, departed with Boyet Fernandez stepping in as the team’s new mentor.
“Baka ito na naman,” Robert thought. “Balik na naman ako sa ganito.”
His two years in La Salle had greatly traumatized him. He was a blue chip recruit who didn’t get a chance to unleash his potential.
However, this time, Robert made sure that history would not repeat itself. Like his fearless drives to the basket, Robert courageously decided to reason with his new coach.
“Hindi puwede mangyari ang ganyan kasi I’m a winner,” Robert told Fernandez. “I don’t care kung may mga ex-pros kami na kasama, I think I can compete with them. Give me a chance. I’m your best defender here and I’ll show it to you.”
From that moment on, Robert went on a roll.
He became MVP of the tournament while leading Cignal-San Beda to the PBA D-League Championship. A couple months later, he faced his old team, La Salle in the Finals of the Fil-Oil Flying V Preseason Premier Cup. Playing with a chip on his shoulder, Robert hit a clutch three-pointer that ultimately lifted the Red Lions over the Green Archers. And finally, in Game 2 of the NCAA Season 93 Finals against LPU, Robert drilled a similar shot in the endgame that helped San Beda defend their title.
“That was the best year I’ve ever had. Di ko makakalimutan yung 2017. Di ko alam kung mangyayari ulit yung ganung klaseng season.”
Whether success continues to come or not, Robert has achieved more than he has ever imagined. After all, he’s come a long way from his humble beginnings more than 950 kilometers from Manila.
Robert was born on September 13, 1995 in Ormoc City, Leyte. His mother, Zeny was a local while his father, Robert Lee was an American who served 32 years in the US Air Force. The two met in Pampanga where the elder Bolick was serving his final tour of duty as Zeny was looking for work away from home. They fell in love and decided to settle down in Ormoc where they would go on to raise Robert in their barangay known as Alegria.
“I was six years old when I started playing basketball. Yung nanay ko, nagsimula siya ng kauna-unahang liga para sa mga ka-age ko,” recalled Robert. “I began to fall in love with the competition.”
But, it wasn’t just Robert who began getting in the game. He had a lot of friends who started playing with him.
“Kami lahat mga magkakaibigan, madami kami. We fell in love with the sport together,” said Robert. “12 noon, laro kami kaagad kasi yung mga matatanda sa hapon, inaagawan kami ng court. After maglaro ng mga malalaki, kami naman ulit.”
Robert and his basketball buddies were inseparable. Their friendship extended from the basketball court. They became known as the “Tun’og Boys”.
“Ang ‘Tun’og Boys’ sa Tagalog ay parang ‘Batang Hamog’, explained Storck Gaviola, one of Robert’s childhood friends. “Kasi gabi kami nagkikita pagkatapos ng laro at naghu-huddle kami sa labas ng mga bahay namin nag-kwekwentuhan hanggang madaling araw.”
Storck noticed Robert’s potential as a basketball player right away. And he didn’t like it when the older kids bullied him for his skin color.
“Nagagalit ako sa bumu-bully sa kanya dahil kano daw siya,” shared Storck. “Sinasabihan ko yung mga nag-bully sa kanya na darating ang araw na siya ang sisikat kaysa sa inyo.”
Growing up with the Tun’og Boys, Robert represented Barangay Alegria in various tournaments around Ormoc through the years. They competed fiercely, celebrating with joy whenever they won and feeling like the world was about to end whenever they lost.
“Dahil sa kanila, nag-evolve ako,” said Robert of the Tun’og Boys. “Kaya laking pasasalamat ko sa kanila dahil nung natalo kami, masakit para sa amin. Di namin matanggap na natalo kami.”
Zeny Bolick may have been the one who opened the doors of the basketball world for her son, but it was the Tun’og Boys that stoked Robert’s competitive fire.
When Robert was in the 5th grade, a major turning point in his basketball journey took place when he was chosen to represent Leyte in the Eastern Visayas Regional Atheletic Association (EVRAA). More opportunities started coming Robert’s way as he competed in the Palarong Pambansa for two straight years from 2007 to 2008 in South Cotabato and Palawan, respectively. He even led Ormoc Se San School, Inc. to an undefeated season and a championship in his junior year of high school. It was also during this time when he hit his growth spurt, reaching six feet at the age of sixteen. Having conquered the basketball courts in his hometown, Robert felt like he was ready to test his skills elsewhere.
He thought to himself. “Parang kaya ko ata sa Manila.”
Former PBA Player and fellow Leyte resident Allan Garrido then helped Robert get the opportunity of a lifetime. He got in touch with the legendary Jun Limpot, who was an assistant coach at De La Salle University at the time. Soon after, Robert was in Taft Avenue to try out for the Green Archers.
“Coach Gee (Abanilla) of DLSU saw something in me,” shared Robert. “Rinecruit niya ako kaagad. Sabi niya, ‘wala ka nang ibang pupuntahan’.”
Robert went on to finish out his final year in high school at La Salle-Greenhills before making the transition into college. Once there, the rest as they say is history. For Robert, the most important thing is that he has proven that he can compete with the best.
“Nung High School ako, isa lang yung championship ko. Dito, sandamakmak,” said Robert. “I never imagined na halos lahat ng liga dito, na-Champion ko. UAAP, NCAA, D-League, Fr. Martin’s, Fil-Oil, PCCL, halos lahat ng liga, I’ve won championships. Di ko ma-imagine, magiging ganun pala ako paglipat ko dito.”
Not Spoiled by Success
Success has not changed Robert.
Mario Nelle Mascariňas, another member of the Tun’og Boys swears that Robert’s personality has remained the same.
“Alam naman siguro ng lahat na kalog yan si Robert. Pero pag basketball ang usapan, ayaw talaga magpatalo yan,” said Mario. “Pero para sa akin, and pinakamagandang ugali ni Robert is yung di niya nakakalimutan kung saan siya nanggaling.”
“Pag umuwi yan si Robert, nagpapa-outing yan sa Tun’og Boys.”
On Saturday, July 7, Robert will open another exciting chapter in his life as he plays out his final year for San Beda University in the 94th season of the NCAA. The PBA Draft is also happening in a few months and Robert is projected to be picked within the top ten. But, Robert maintains that his focus is on winning a third straight championship with the Red Lions.
“Hindi ko muna iniisip yung PBA Draft kasi feeling ko baka maiyak ako or something. Kasi from where I’m from, siguro napakasarap sa puso na ma-draft.”
As for how Robert wants to be remembered, the ‘King Lion’ had this to say:
“Gusto ko lang makita nila na winner ako. Na di ako nagpapatalo. Gusto ko maging inspirasyon ako sa mga bangko. Pag feeling nila, nawawalan sila ng gana, I think I could be one of those guys that they can look up to. I want to say to them, ‘Hey, ako nakayanan ko, why not sila?’”
The NCAA Season 94 men's seniors basketball tournament begins July 7, Saturday, 12 noon LIVE on S+A channel 23, S+A HD channel 166, LIGA channel 86, LIGA HD channel 183 and via livestream.