8 years after last Gilas stint, Barroca eager to prove he can still go toe-to-toe with Asia’s best

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Mark Barroca never really expected to return to international play after suiting up for what he thought was the last time back in 2011 with Gilas 1.0.

So when he was named to head coach Yeng Guiao’s 14-man pool for the sixth and final window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, he was expectedly ecstatic.

“‘Di ko inexpect na makukuha ako rito, pero kinuha nila ako. Sobrang saya ko. Tine-treasure ko ‘yung pagkuha nila sa’kin. Napa-pump ako eh na kinuha nila ako. First day pa lang na sinabi nilang may ensayo agad, handa agad ako,” Barroca said Monday during the team’s first practice at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.

Barroca may have the chance to play alongside established PBA stars for the first time in a competitive, high-stakes setup—a situation that he only got a taste of during PBA All-Star exhibitions.

This excited the reigning Governors’ Cup Finals MVP, who last helped a collegiate-laden Philippine core to a fourth-place finish in the 2011 FIBA Asia Championships in Wuhan, China.

“Sobrang excited kasi nakakasama ko lang ‘tong mga ‘to kapag All-Star games. Pero eto, iba labanan dito sa international. ‘Yung pride ilalaban mo dito,” he said.

“Dati kasi, mga bata kami. Collegiate kami. Mas experienced mga teammates ko, mga professional. ‘Yun ‘yung maganda na makakatulong talaga,” he added.

Of course, the 32-year-old guard also wants to show everyone that he still has what it takes to go up against the best guards in all of Asia as they brace for their must-win games against Qatar and Kazakhstan in February.

“‘Yung feel ko sa international play, andun pa rin eh. Pero ang sa’kin lang naman, makatulong lang sa team. Kung ano gusto ipagawa sa’kin, ibibigay ko na ‘yung best ko,” he explained.

“Maganda na ‘yung pressured onti. Professional naman tayo eh. ‘Yung mga player, walang room for error. Kung andun kami sa loob, commit lang kami,” Barroca noted.

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