MANILA, Philippines -- NorthPort guard Robert Bolick has all the makings of a leader for the Philippine national team, according to former Gilas Pilipinas mainstay Marc Pingris.
Bolick, 26, made quite an impression on Pingris this week when they joined Gilas Pilipinas in practice at the Moro Lorenzo Gym in the Ateneo de Manila University campus.
"Siya 'yung maaga (sa practice)," Pingris said of Bolick, who was added to the national team pool over the weekend after coming to terms with the Batang Pier on a new contract.
Bolick reportedly received the "full blessing" of the NorthPort management to join Gilas Pilipinas. This marks his second participation with the national team, after making his debut at the biggest stage -- the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China.
Despite his youth and relative inexperience in international basketball, Bolick is already developing into a strong leader for Gilas, at least in Pingris' eyes.
"Sobra kasi niyang sipag. At sabi niya sa akin, 'Kuya, ito 'yung pangarap ko eh. 'Yung maglaro dito,'" Pingris recalled.
"At nakita talaga ng mata ko, kahapon, bago kami mag-start ng practice, maaga siya, and then nagwo-work out na agad siya," he added.
Pingris, who is a veteran of several FIBA tournaments and is now an assistant coach for Gilas, readily offered his advice to Bolick. He had previously reached out to the guard after Bolick suffered a knee injury in October 2019 where he tore his ACL.
"Tinext ko siya na, 'Brad, ako napag-daanan ko na 'to, twice pa, same knee. Kung gusto mong gumaling, hard work lang, puso lang. Hindi ka gagaling, or hindi ka babalik 'pag andiyan ka sa bahay mo, kakain-kain lang'," Pingris said of his advice to the younger player.
"Sabi ko sa kanya, 'May mga araw talaga na mafi-feel mo talaga na sobrang ayaw mong mag-trabaho, sobrang ayaw mong mag-work out, sobrang ayaw mong gumalaw. Dahil siyempre siguro, napapagod ka. But 'yun ang kailangang unang-una mong labanan'," he added.
Now that Bolick has fully recovered from his injury and is back in action, Pingris continues to mentor him. He stressed to Bolick the importance of staying fit and healthy, noting that it's vital to an athlete's career.
"Lagi kong sinasabi sa kanya na, magiging maintenance mo 'yang workout. Habang buhay mo nang gagawin 'yan habang naglalaro ka ng basketball. Kasi 'yan ang puhunan natin, katawan," Pingris told Bolick. "Hindi ang talento, kung 'di katawan ang puhunan ng isang player."
That he can now serve as a mentor and adviser to the younger players in the national team is a source of pride for Pingris, who feels that he is giving back to the next generation. For the PBA legend, he is only doing for them what was done for him by his own idols, such as Danny Ildefonso and Rommel Adducul.
Aside from Bolick, he has also been giving advice to players like Thirdy Ravena and Francis "Lebron" Lopez, said Pingris.
"Ang sarap lang sa feeling kasi 'yun ang ginawa sa akin ni Danny Ildefonso dati, noong naging teammate ko siya. Na, 10 years, 20 years from now, anong meron ka. So, kung ano 'yung mga natututunan ko sa mga mentor ko dati," he said.
Bolick, Ravena and Lopez are all part of the Gilas pool for the upcoming FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers on February 24 to 28.