The defending champions San Beda Red Lions may be on a six-game winning streak, but Robert Bolick is still smarting from their lone loss against the Lyceum Pirates last month. “I hate losing more than I like winning,” he says. “I want to play Lyceum so bad. I could play them now.”
There’s no question Bolick is the most competitive person on the Red Lions’ squad—maybe in the entire NCAA. After all, this is a guy who spent his childhood playing against farmers and fishermen in Ormoc, Leyte. It was there that Bolick learned to fight, and he’s still fighting today.
When he talks about the bout of amoebiasis that hit him and several teammates two weeks ago, Bolick’s lip twitches in anger that his body could not keep pace with his will. He wasn’t 100% when they faced Mapua, but he wanted to play and get revenge on the Cardinals for beating them in their second-round meeting last year. In Bolick’s first game back at full capacity, he led the team to defeat the Perpetual Altas on their home court, 57-53.
Still, Bolick isn’t satisfied. He stared straight into the lens for his player of the game mugshot, but the moment the camera left him, he shook his head: “Masaya pero close game eh.”
“This season, wala pa kaming statement game. Kahit ‘yung teams na dapat tambakan namin, hindi namin natatambakan,” Bolick adds.
Despite being a star player on a team that’s a heavy favorite to make the finals, NCAA Season 93 presents new challenges for Bolick and the Red Lions. Lyceum’s in the picture, so for the first time in years, people weren’t calling the championship a done deal for San Beda in freaking July. And after Bolick’s stellar showing in the FilOil preseason tournament, there’s both a heavier load on his shoulders and a bigger target on his back.
“Ngayon, [Perpetual] really defended me well. Actually, lahat ng teams sobrang hirap,” he shares. “Pero again, that’s a challenge and I love challenges.”
If he can’t score, he says, he’ll fight bigger guys for the rebound and find the man you overlooked. For this to work, he trusts—and pushes—his teammates to make big shots. “I just want to win. Every practice, I’ll shout that,” Bolick says. “Kahit mag-away kami sa training. I just want us to win.”
Bolick’s brand of competitiveness is different from the other NCAA stars of his batch. Where Kent Salado (and Jio Jalalon before him) carries the Arellano Chiefs on his back and shrugs it off with “kailangan may gumawa eh,” Bolick’s more the type to drag his team, kicking and screaming, to victory.
“If I lose, mag-iinom talaga ako and I don’t wanna drink so I have to win,” he quips.
It’s easy to mistake Bolick’s manner for arrogance, especially in the Pinoy college scene where even the best athletes try to out-humble each other with every “’de, chamba lang.” Bolick will never say that.
Confidence is what led him to try out for UP, ADMU and San Beda after DLSU put him on the back burner. Confidence is what made him take that championship-winning triple against the Green Archers in the preseason. Confidence is what makes him expect more from himself and his teammates every game. And it’s rooted in an unshakable belief that if you put in more work, you will reap more rewards.
“Kailangan namin magtrabaho. Mahaba pa ‘yung season,” says Bolick. “Lyceum is really playing well but we’re just gonna have to stick to the system and play good defense. Eventually we’ll win.”