Clock is ticking for Robert Bolick

Naveen Ganglani
Clock is ticking for Robert Bolick
There’s a silver lining to Robert Bolick missing time with injury as the PBA rising star has returned to school

 

 

MANILA, Philippines – Robert Bolick sits comfortably on one of the benches at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Clinic in Quezon City. He jokes with the physical therapists and says hi to familiar faces who are on their own paths to recovery.

The clock reads 1 pm, the beginning of a five-hour rehabilitation that takes place every day, from Monday to Friday.

This is the same clinic where the likes of Paul Lee and Marc Pingris remedied injuries to remain PBA star players, something Bolick was on his way to becoming before he tore his ACL in October last year.

A few days later, he underwent surgery performed by the renowned Dr George Canlas, commencing a nearly year-long layover he had never experienced in the past.

Nagbibilang na ako nang araw,” he opens up on a sunny Monday afternoon, nearly 5 months later. “Every time nagbibilang ako ng araw, pabilis ng pabilis, palapit ng palapit, may gutom. 

[Pero] hindi ko naman minamadali. [I’m just] taking my time.” 

(I’m just counting the days. Every time I count the days, it’s like my comeback feels nearer, the hunger is there. But I’m not rushing it, I’m just taking my time.)

 

Unlucky landing

When Bolick suffered his setback, he was in the process of leading an impressive victory for his team, NorthPort, against the PBA’s dynasty team of the last half decade – San Miguel. 

He was playing as an energetic and youthful newcomer but with the skillset of a veteran. He was also close in chase for the Rookie of the Year award against the eventual winner, CJ Perez, who was taken two spots ahead of him in the PBA draft. 

With one unlucky landing, his knee gave in, and he lost the award. But being absent for NorthPort’s playoff run – that’s what really haunts him. 

“As I’ve said since college, I don’t really care about individual [awards]. Bigay mo na sa kanila ‘yan. I just want a championship. ‘Yun yung pinakaimportante,” he says. 

(Just give the awards to them, I want a championship. That’s more important.)

The PBA’s 45th season commenced this past weekend. Something else that took place was the Leo Awards, where the league recognized its best standouts from the previous season. 

In addition to being named ROY, Perez was also part of the Mythical First Team, along with two of Bolick’s teammates – Christian Standhardinger and Sean Anthony – plus Jayson Castro and six-time consecutive PBA MVP, June Mar Fajardo, who is fighting his own injury woes.

Had Bolick not gotten hurt, would he have changed the final tally?

 

Back to school

Bolick saw parts of the opening, but spent most of his weekend in a retreat organized by San Beda University.

If there’s a silver lining to Bolick missing time with injury, it’s that he’s been able to go back to school and will now get to finish his undergraduate units by June. His family in Dallas, Texas won’t visit until next year, so that’s likely when he’ll choose to march and receive his diploma. 

There is something else he’s done since the end of last year which has been surprising, considering his genuine love for the game of basketball. 

Bolick has purposely avoided going to practice.

Medyo mahirap pumunta ng practice, kasi nakikita mo sila naglalaro, ‘tas alam mo makakatulong ka sa team, tapos hindi mo matutulungan,” he explains. 

(It’s hard to attend practice because you see your teammates playing and you know you can help the team, but you can’t.)

Bolick has also shut down social media, opting to remain “low-key” as he focuses on strengthening his body. Only recently did he get to properly walk and drive anew, which are reasons why he hasn’t been present in NorthPort’s training sessions in Green Meadows. 

But that’s now going to change.

Following a public shout-out courtesy of his head coach, Pido Jarencio, Bolick has decided to brave through his competitive nature and return to practice. Monday, March 9, marked his first appearance.

Na-miss lang ako nun. Miss lang talaga ko nun. Gusto niya ako makita sa practice,” Bolick laughs, after saying he and Jarencio had a fun and light conversation in the morning. 

(He just misses me so much. He wants to see me in practice.) 

He also spoke to his teammates, and asked for their understanding after explaining why he’s been out of reach. 

Practice kasi, tahimik na, wala nang maingay, kaya siguro na miss ako ni coach. Pupunta ako time to time. Now I think is the right time na pupunta na ako kasi I can walk and I can drive.”

(Coach just misses me because practice is now quiet, no one’s making noise. I’ll go from time to time. Now I think is the right time to go because I can now walk and drive.)

 

Rookie standard

Bolick also plans to attend NorthPort’s games – once they return following the PBA’s decision to postpone – when they take place at The Big Dome, which is much closer from Moro’s Sports Clinic than the Mall of Asia Arena. 

He also speaks with Jarencio twice a week over the phone, and remains faithful to his diet of no fried food, no pork, and no soda. When his girlfriend, Aby Maraño, isn’t occupied by her responsibilities as a veteran star player in the Philippine Superliga, they spend time together at home either conversing or watching shows on Netflix. 

Bolick doesn’t look back at what could have been had he not gotten injured, nor does he question why this became his destiny. 

Di naman ako naging down nung na-injure ako. Kasi as I’ve said, bigay ng Diyos yan eh, so you just have to accept it,” he says, allowing a glimpse into his faith.

It also helps that there’s excitement for the new heights his team can possibly reach when he returns. With the likes of Standhardinger – a Best Player of the Conference awardee – Anthony, Kevin Ferrer, Paolo Taha, Jervy Cruz, and talented rookies lined up, NorthPort can even surpass its performance last PBA season, when they made the playoffs each conference.

Can Bolick be the key to catapult Jarencio’s team to their first ever PBA finals appearance in franchise history?

Hindi niya ako linagay ng rookie standard, eh. Yun yung gusto ko kay coach Pido,” Bolick shares about their relationship.

“‘Di ko pa narinig sa kanya na, ‘Kasi rookie yan, eh.’ Never niya akong sinasabihan ako na ‘rookie mistake.’ Tinitingnan niya ako as nanduon na ako. 

(He never measured me against rookie standard. That’s what I like about coach Pido. I never heard him say, ‘He’s a rookie, that’s why.’ He never said ‘rookie mistake.’ He sees me as if I’m already up there.)

Where is that? In this case, that points to being the lead man of a team aiming for new-found success. 

“Coach, why don’t we make history?” Bolick asked Jarencio in one of their recent conversations. He was a superstar in high school, became a legend in college, and wants to be known as a champion in the PBA. 

“I’m in a good place,” he says with a smile, moments before starting one of the many sessions he’ll need to get back on the court, which at this point, his doctor assumes will be in September. 

Until then, he’s only going to get hungrier.  – Rappler.com

 

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