X-factor: Time to shine for Mark Barroca

Since coming into league as the Purefoods franchise’s 5th overall pick in 2012, Mark Barroca has distinguished himself as a pesky defender, hard-banging, rebounding guard, nifty passer and clutch scorer.

No wonder, in his 1st 4 seasons in the pro league, the former Smart-Gilas back up guard helped Star to 5 PBA championships, including the franchise’s 1st-ever Grand Slam in 2014.

But since the departure of multi-titled coach Tim Cone last September, Star has gone into a major system change with rookie coach Jason Webb at the helm.

Every Star had to adjust as the Hotshots do away with Cone’s patented triangle offense and embracing Webb’s up-tempo style.

The Hotshots struggled and staggered during the season, needing a win against the Mahindra Enforcers last Wednesday to secure the no. 8 seed in the Oppo-PBA Commissioner’s Cup playoffs.

Barroca returned to the game after undergoing 4 stitches on his eyebrow to facilitate the team’s offense and bringing stability to the Hotshots, on the way to an 86-73 win over the Enforcers to clinch the 8th and last seed in the playoffs.

Come Monday, Star has the unenviable task of beating top-ranked San Miguel Beer two times in order to advance to the best-of-5 semifinal series.

With the team’s resident star James Yap still out with a calf injury and versatile Fil-Am Alex Mallari also down with a foot injury, the Hotshots will require everyone to chip in or else end up as fair game for the powerhouse Beermen.

But Barroca will serve as the glue of the team as he orchestrates the plays for Star, which is trying to rediscover its playoff swag under Webb.

The former Far Eastern University playmaker averages do-it-all numbers of 9.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.3 steals this conference. – By Richard Dy

Follow this writer on Twitter: @richava