Roger Pogoy: Under Southern Lights

Paolo Mariano on Sep 19, 2015 12:09 PM
Roger Pogoy: Under Southern Lights
“Si (Jerie) Pingoy nagsabi sa’kin na pumunta sa FEU. Pinakilala niya ko kay Coach Bert (Flores).” -- Roger Pogoy

It’s no secret that Cebu is a hotbed of quality basketball. The province has produced a lengthy list of talented players. Names like Estoy Estrada, Dondon Ampalayo, Elmer Cabahug, Dondon Hontiveros, and most recently, June Mar Fajardo easily come to mind. Dig deeper and you have the likes of Zaldy Realubit, Roger Yap, Junthy Valenzuela, and JR Quiñahan.

Other legends, though born in other provinces, honed their skills playing in Cebu: Mon Fernandez, Abet Guidaben, Berne Fabiosa, and Jojo Lastimosa. A budding superstar in Greg Slaughter also made a name for himself in the Queen City of the South.

One guy looking to add his name to the catalogue is Roger Pogoy.

Now in his final year in the UAAP, the Far Eastern University (FEU) forward is determined to leave an imprint in the league and in the process, inch closer to the rarefied perch of his Cebuano forerunners.

What is it with players from Cebu that make them terrific ball players? Is it their blue-collar mindset? Their silent efficiency? Their grit and doggedness? Their tough physique? Perhaps it’s a cocktail of everything. Just watch Pogoy play and you’ll get the idea.

Taga-dis-a ka?

Like most basketball players from the province, Pogoy’s journey had modest beginnings.

He was born on June 16, 1992 in Cansojong, a coastal town in Talisay, Cebu with close to 13,000 residents. Here, boys are taught how to fish and swim at an early age. The town easily gets submerged in flood after a heavy downpour. There’s nothing much to do recreationally but hang out, go for a dip, and of course, play basketball.

Pogoy was introduced to the sport early on, especially since it’s practically his family’s official hobby.

Nung elementary pa lang ako, tinuruan na ko ng papa ko maglaro. Dati siyang college player sa Cebu. Mga tito ko tsaka mga pinsan, mga player din,” said Pogoy, the youngest among four children.

In his sophomore year in high school, he was named to the University of Cebu (UC) varsity team. By his third year, he led the Junior Webmasters to the CESAFI championship, capturing the Finals MVP plum in the process. In his final year, he was already practicing with the Seniors Team, which featured Fajardo and Brian Hereula.

Soon, he garnered the attention of collegiate schools in Manila. He was invited to a prestigious basketball camp in 2010 and was adjudged Best Player of the All-Star Game, besting the likes of Chris Javier, Scottie Thompson, and Mark Cruz among others.

He was so impressive in the camp that he was invited to train with the RP Youth Team under head coach Eric Altamirano. He practiced with established prep stars like Kiefer Ravena, Kevin Ferrer, Jeron Teng, Gelo Alolino, Mike Tolomia, Troy Rosario, and Baser Amer.

But home was too much to give up for a reticent kid.

Nasa reserve list na ko nun kaso lagi akong umuuwi sa Cebu, naho-homesick ako. Hindi ako madalas nakapag-practice kaya hindi rin ako nakuha,” said Pogoy. “Nagsisisi nga ako ngayon e.

Maayong pagbiyahi!

Upon finishing high school, he set his sights on joining the Webmasters in college. It was logical—and sentimental—for the homegrown kid. Other schools kept on peppering him with recruitment offers like National University and San Beda College.

In the end, he chose none of them.

Unexpectedly, he went to FEU thanks to a glowing recommendation from a fellow Cebuano hoops prodigy. He was Pogoy’s ex-teammate in division meets before being recruited to play for the Baby Tamaraws.

Si (Jerie) Pingoy nagsabi sa’kin na pumunta sa FEU. Pinakilala niya ko kay Coach Bert (Flores),” shared the 23-year-old Pogoy. “Isang araw bago ako mag-enroll sa UC, tinawagan ako (ni Coach), pinapapunta niya ko sa FEU.”

With the urging of his father, the soft-spoken teenager soon found himself in the busy, mucky streets of Morayta. From a modest, peaceful town in Cebu to a mishmash of congested chaos and a cacophony of street vendors, barkers, and jeepney horns.

Luckily, he found a familiar noise in the athletes’ quarters. Even though he was more than 500 miles away, he felt right at home.

Nung una mahirap pero madami ring Bisaya sa team kaya parang at-home na rin,” said Pogoy.

Maayong kapalaran!

In 2011, Pogoy made his UAAP debut. It’s still vivid in his mind—for the wrong reasons.

“Opening ‘yun, kalaban La Salle. Hindi ko alam gagawin ko. Pinasok ako agad. Sobrang daming tao. Wala ako masyadong ginawa nun, depensa lang. Three to four minutes lang ako naglaro. Kinakabahan talaga ko nun. Kinakabog dibdib ko,” recalled Pogoy.

But the trademark Cebuano fortitude came to the forefront. He soldiered on and eased his way into the rotation.

Lagi sinasabi ni Papa nun na maghintay lang ako. Madami pa kasi star player sa team, si RR (Garcia), Terrence (Romeo). May five years pa naman ako. Mag-extra work lang,” said Pogoy. “Isang game against UST, naka-14 points ako. Lahat ng tira ko, pumapasok. Dun na nagsimula ‘yung break ko.”

The 6-foot-3 forward has been an integral part of the Tamaraws since his arrival. He has only missed action in three games—all in his rookie season. Each year, he has hiked up his production as well.

From an unassuming kid shooting hoops with his dad in a nearby half-court in Cansojong, Pogoy is now one of the better players in the UAAP and one of the vital cogs in the Tams’ quest to avenge their stinging loss in last year’s finals.

He’s putting up career numbers of 13.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, and 2.0 APG. He may not have the flash of Tolomia or the authority of Mac Belo, but Pogoy makes his presence felt on both ends. He has a keen sense for the game and hardly makes boneheaded decisions.

A noticeable improvement in his arsenal is his three-point shooting. Last season, he made 11 treys. This year, he already has nine—the most by any player.

Nag-practice talaga ko ng shooting sa offseason. Naisip ko para sa future ko na rin ‘to,” said Pogoy, who makes sure to hit 100 three-point shots after every practice. “Dapat may nai-improve ka every year. Hindi puwede mag-settle and makuntento.”

He has also played the role of vocal leader, with Belo, the team captain, as outspoken as a mime. He leads players’ huddles, consistently motivates his teammates, and is usually the first to one to greet them when they’re headed to the bench.

”Yung iba kasi naming veteran, tahimik lang kaya ako na 'yung magiging vocal. That’s my role. Gagawin ko ang lahat ng makakaya ko. Hindi ko man ma-lead ‘yung team sa stats, ako ‘yung laging first sa pag-encourage,” said Pogoy.

Hangtod sa sunod

Last season, the Tamaraws saw the UAAP title slip from their hands. More than a year has passed but they can still taste the bitter defeat. In fact, most of them have made it a battle-cry to take what they feel was rightfully theirs.

Babawi kami. Nasaktan kami. Kami nakauna (sa finals) tapos nawala lang lahat. Gigil kami,” said Pogoy.

It’s no secret that five years can go by like a gust in the UAAP. One day, Pogoy was a wide-eyed rookie who didn’t know that to do in his maiden UAAP game. Now, he’s close to bidding goodbye.

With ample experience and an almost intact FEU team, Pogoy wants his farewell tour to remain vivid as well—this time for the right reasons. Preferably, with green and yellow balloons descending from the rafters. So when he comes home to Cebu, he’ll be even prouder of his roots.

Sobrang laking karangalan mag-champion sa college kasi mahirap gawin. Ang daming star player na hindi nag-champion,” said Pogoy. “Nagsi-sink-in na rin na last year ko na. Ibubuhos ko na lahat.”

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