Good Enough for Gilas: Mark Barroca

2014 is going to be a BIG year for Philippine basketball. This year will mark the first time two of our Philippine National Teams (Men’s and U17) will march onto the world stage and compete at the highest level of international hoops. Our very own Gilas Pilipinas squad will go to Spain and play in the 2014 FIBA World Cup, while the Philippine U17 Team, coached by Jamike Jarin, will troop over to Dubai for the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championships. 

It’s been reported that the Gilas Pilipinas brain trust is keen on tapping more players to join the pool, with the magic number pegged at 24. That means that there are still around eleven slots open. Take note that this does not YET include the two naturalized prospects of the team — Javale McGee of the Denver Nuggets and Andray Blatche of the Brooklyn Nets. We’re still not sure if their respective naturalization processes will finish in time for Gilas to include their names in the final 24-man pool.

As of this writing, the 2014 FIBA World Cup Draw is done, and the Philippines has been grouped along with Senegal, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Greece, and Croatia. That, in my opinion, is the second-toughest group of the lot, and making it into the second round will certainly be the tallest task coach Chot Reyes has ever faced. Needless to say, he’ll need all thew support he can get.

This is the ninth piece in a series of posts detailing the players who can be part of that pool. For each named individual, we will look at the good things he can bring to the pool, his probable role should he get named to the final Gilas lineup, and the possible match-ups he will have at the Asian and world levels.

Today, we’ll talk about someone who was part of Gilas in 2011 and is currently one of the top point guards in the country. Right now he calls the shots for the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers. He is Mark Barroca.


Mark Barroca takes it strong against possible
future teammate Javale McGee.
(image from SmartGilasPilipinas.com)



What he brings to the table:
What I love about Mark Barroca is that he is a tenacious player on both ends of the floor. He has so many weapons on offense — he can drive, he can shoot, and he can create. He is maybe the best PG defender in the country, too, currently leading the league in steals per game (2.3spg). 

Barroca also brings a lot international experience with him already, having been a part of Gilas from 2010 to 2011. In his stint with the national team, the Coffee Prince played mainly a back-up role. It was usually JV Casio who started, and Barroca who subbed in, with veteran Jimmy Alapag added as the third playmaker in Wuhan. In that tournament, he averaged about 4 points, 2 assists, and 1 steal. A year earlier, he also played in the Asian Games, norming 5 points, 2 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per outing. 

Barroca is known as one of the quickest guards in the PBA, easily transitioning from easy-does-it pace to here-comes-the-MMDA-let’s-scram speed! He has a wicked pull-up, and he drives really strong to the rack. He is maybe the most tenacious on-ball backcourt defender, and reads passing lanes like a bookworm reads Shakespeare. 


Why he is a good fit for Gilas: 
So what kind of PG could be effective in the dribble-drive system? How about someone who can break his man down and make good decisions while making a beeline to the basket? How about someone who can hit a spot-up J or a pull-up off a pick? How about a guy who can hound the opposing team’s floor general till the latter gets flustered all the way from here to Puerto Williams (it’s the southernmost city in the world, Wikipedia said)?

The answer? All of the above, which basically means Mark Barroca.


Mark Barroca was a vital cog of Gilas's
campaign in 2011.
(image from sports.163.com)

Potential match-ups:
FIBA-Asia: Mahdi Kamrani  (IRI), Jerry Johnson (KAZ), Yang Dong-Geun (KOR)
FIBA World Cup: Facundo Campazzo (ARG), Roko Ukic (CRO), Vassilis Spanoulis (GRE)

Barroca is one of the fastest in the biz, but if he plays on the FIBA World stage, he’ll go up against guys who are at least as fast as he is. Translation? We’re in for one hell of a speed show. It’s going to be a helluva treat to see Barroca hound Greek shooter Vassilis Spanoulis, or try to turn the corner against Croatia’s Roko Ukic. Of course, we might also see him get posted up by a guard at least five inches taller, so there.

In the next post, the next point guard we’ll look at is the one who played ahead of Barroca from 2010-2011 — JV Casio.


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I don't think Barroca's good enough for Gilas. No offense to Barroca, or his wife, or to his fans, or to anyone who thinks he's good enough. Here's why:

1. He's not big enough. Just like most of our finest point guards, Barroca is not big enough. Sure, Alapag, Tenorio, and Castro were small players, and Barroca is also one of the quickest players out there, but quickness can only get you so far if you have that high level of skill too. Sadly, for Barroca, he doesn't possess the same offensive skill set and talent that those 3 players possess.

2. He does not have enough range. Yes, he can shoot 3 pointers. But I'm referring to the type of player who actually is a shooter, either steadily or on hot streaks.

Those two factors, taken holistically, makes the case for Barroca difficult for a spot in the national team that is to compete in the FIBA world.

I'm not saying he's a bad player, he's probably one of the best performing point guards in the PBA right now. But FIBA is an entirely different playing field. There's a striking reason why he was only the 3rd option point guard in Wuhan, after Casio, and Alapag. During games against the tough teams, he's rarely used. This is due to his limited offense.

Yes he can explode. He did explode in 2009 FIBA Champions Cup. He can score big against PBA teams. But those were against Monfort and Helterbrand. This is the World Cup we're talking about. His kind of offense would have very little effect against teams with guards as big as Michael C-W and just as quick and good.

And again, his shooting is very limited. If you notice the 6 backcourt positions in the current Gilas (Alapag, Castro, Tenorio, Chan, David, Fonacier), all of them are ready reliable shooters, whether off the pick, on sets, or clutch shooting. Being a known shooter is like a license to play any backcourt position.

Also, given his offensive weapons being negated, he's also not one of the best playmakers out there. I can name at least 8 better playmakers in the PBA than him.

Barroca just isn't a good pick for a 3rd point guard in a team that's already lacking in size. It's better acquiring bigger players who are just as capable playing point guard, like Chris Lutz or Jared Dillinger. Bigger point guards like Lee, Banchero, Alas are very much needed in that kind of competition.

So unless Barroca actually plays like Ty Lawson, or JJ Barea, or Jason Castro, nevermind.

There are a lot of good players who perform well in the PBA, but just not good enough in a FIBA competition, and unfortunately for Barroca, he's one of them.

PS: I'm not a Ginebra or ROS fan, just a basketball follower giving my opinion. :)

Balas