From barangay baller to NCAA standout
John Ervin Grospe is a baller with a mission.
Playing under the radar of his more illustrious teammates such as Paolo Pontejos and Tey Teodoro for most of his playing career for the JRU Heavy Bombers, Grospe figures that Season 93 of the upcoming National Collegiate Athletic Association as his most opportune time to finally shine.
In fact, in the recent Fil-Oil pre-season tournament, Grospe racked up eye-popping numbers in scoring and rebounding to help the Heavy Bombers reach the Final 4, no mean feat for a team that had struggled in the previous NCAA season.
The 6-4 Grospe played his best basketball against the University of Sto. Tomas in the run-up to the semis, where he scored a team-high 18 points, including a dagger trey in the waning seconds of the match.
Grospe credited his transformation from a mediocre performer to a dependable player to his recent stint in the PBA D-League.
“Marami talaga ako natutunan sa D-League, kasi naturuan ako dun paano maging tough at saka maging smart sa paglalaro,” Grospe said.
Now on his fifth year as a Heavy Bomber, Grospe said he had become comfortable with his coach, Vergel Meneses, and his teammates.
“Itinuturing ko silang para kong pamilya. Mararamdaman mo kasi na hindi ka nila papabayaan at talagang tulong-tulong kami kapag nasa game,” Gorospe said.
Unknown to many, Grospe, a native of Guiguinto, Bulacan, did not play high school basketball, but instead honed his skills by joining several inter-barangay and inter-town tournaments in his hometown.
And unlike other aspirants for college basketball, Grospe was picked by Meneses when he walked in a for a tryout held by the team’s coaching staff in Malolos, Bulacan.
Meneses, a Bulakenyo like Grospe, may have seen something in Grospe in that tryout that he took a gamble on the young cager.
Years later, Meneses’ gamble paid off, as Grospe had proven that he deserves to be part of the team’s regular rotation.
Playing the no. 4 position, Grospe has become another scoring option for JRU, especially with the departure of Pontejo and the recent injury that struck Darius Estrella.
Still, Grospe said he needs to improve on some aspects of his game, particularly in rebounding.
‘Yung rebounding talaga gusto ko ma-improve, kasi yung defense at scoring ko naman medyo okay na. Talagang nagkaka-problema lang ako minsan sa rebound lalo na kasi I play no. 4 kaya mas malalaki yung nababantayan ko,” Grospe said.
Like most young college players, Grospe, who idolizes PBA legend Danny Ildefonso and NBA icon Kobe Bryant, dreams of someday making it to the PBA.
“Lahat naman siguro ng players gustong mag-PBA. Pangarap ko rin ‘yan. Pero kung hindi ako palarin, siyempre kailangan ko rin maghanap ng ibang trabaho,” said Grospe, a BSBA Management student.
Grospe knows that making it to the big league entails a lot of hard work and determination, but for now, his focus is on helping the team achieve its goals of making it to the Final Four.
As basketball pundits love to say, “bilog ang bola,” and the ball of fate might one day roll in Grospe’s favor.
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