NCAA: A new tower is on the rise for Red Robins

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Aug 07, 2018 09:15 PM
NCAA: A new tower is on the rise for Red Robins
Jonnel Policarpio is giving his all so that Mapua will no longer be missing Will Gozum and Warren Bonifacio

Mapua High School lost its biggest advantage last year when both Season MVP Will Gozum and Mythical selection moved on up to the Seniors.

That twin tower pairing powered the Red Robins to a runner-up finish a season ago.

Now, the team is being fronted by versatile swingman Clint Escamis as well as fellow guards Dan Arches and Karl Mariano.

That doesn’t mean, however, that Mapua has a donut hole in the middle.

In fact, slowly but surely, the void left behind by Gozum and Bonifacio is getting filled by rookie Jonnel Policarpio.

The 16-year-old forward is giving his all to make sure the Red Robins do not get outworked and outhustled inside.

He turned in his best game yet on Tuesday, posting a 23-point, 16-rebound double-double in their 85-77 victory versus San Sebastian College-Recoletos.

For Policarpio, it was all just part of the job. “Ginawa ko lang yung sinasabi ni coach [Randy Alcantara] – rebound, depensa. Yun ako inaasahan ni coach,” he said afterward.

For Mapua, though, that is exactly what it needs to be able to match up with the frontlines of fellow contenders College of St. Benilde-La Salle Greenhills (Inand Fornilos, Mark Sangco) and Arellano High School (Aaron Fermin, Resty Fornis).

Good thing then that their 6-foot-4 talented rookie is taking inspiration from the non-stop motor that Bonifacio, his fellow Kapampangan, had. “Sabi ni coach lagi na dapat, idolo ko si Warren – masipag, rebound lang nang rebound. Wag ko raw isipin na gagawa ng points, basta rebound nang rebound,” he shared.

Even better is he has a good friend, and another kababayan, whose footsteps he could follow. “Katropa ko si Serrano,” he said, referring to now De La Salle University prized ward Encho Serrano.

Like Serrano, Policarpio hails from Pampanga. Like Serrano, Policarpio plays with heart and hustle each and every second he’s on the floor. Like Serrano, Policarpio needs to play bigger than his size.

And like Serrano, Policarpio is relishing his golden opportunity to see action in the big leagues after years of playing in ligang labas. “Nung 13-years-old ako, nag-ligang labas na ako para makatulong sa pamilya. Ibang-iba yung laro rito,” he said.

He then continued, “Masayang-masaya akong makapaglaro rito.”

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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