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Players to watch

By Jerome Lagunzad

A former benchwarmer intends to continue his transformation into a certified star while a highly-touted Fil-foreigner makes his much-awaited comeback in the NCAA seniors basketball tournament that gets going on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

All eyes will be on do-it-all guard Robert Bolick as the former La Salle castoff is expected to lead the way for powerhouse San Beda, which opens its title-retention bid against season host San Sebastian.

“‘Yung lahat ng pagod at pawis na ginagawa ko simula sa practice, nagbubunga na talaga,” said the 21-year-old native of Ormoc City, Leyte, considered by many as the undisputed leader of the Red Lions who will be handled anew by two-time NCAA champion coach Boyet Fernandez.

Aside from his bid to help the Red Lions assert their dominance and claim their 21st men’s cage title overall, the 6-foot-2 Bolick also intends to serve as a role model to those up-and-coming players who have yet to get a much-needed break.

“Ayaw ko na bumalik sa time na andu’n lang ako (sa dulo ng bench). Kung gusto mo umasenso, kailangan mo talagang mag-trabaho. Basta hardworking ka at may dedication sa laro, may mararating ka talaga,” he said.

Also expected to gain a fair share of the limelight is Lyceum’s blue-chip recruit CJ Perez, who will make his return to the country’s oldest collegiate league after an unsuccessful attempt to suit up for Ateneo in the UAAP.

The 6-foot-1 Perez could make a seamless transition to the Pirates camp where he will be reunited with Topex Robinson, his former mentor at the Golden Stags squad that saw them reach the Final Four round back in 2013.

High-scoring guard Rey Nambatac remains as the biggest weapon of 2015 titlist Letran while Emilio Aguinaldo College, also seen as one of the big threats to San Beda’s reign, will pin its hopes mainly on bruising forward Sidney Onwubere and Cameroonian Hamadou Laminou.