For Jonnel Policarpio, it seems like good things take time.
Back in 2020, Policarpio committed to the DLSU Green Archers after spending two seasons with the Mapua Red Robins in the NCAA Juniors, where he was named Rookie of the Year and won a championship with the Red Robins in Season 94.
As he had a year of high school left, Policarpio was reportedly eligible for UAAP Season 84. However, he was noticeably absent from the Green Archers’ rosters for Seasons 84 and 85.
Where is Policarpio? Is he injured? Did he transfer schools and become another unfortunate victim of La Salle’s penchant for hoarding talent? Such were the questions that floated as the Lasallian community waited patiently for his on-court arrival.
The answer eventually came as DLSU began its preparations for UAAP Season 86. Policarpio featured heavily in Green Archers head coach Topex Robinson’s rotation during the preseason, much to the delight of the Lasallian faithful.
Policarpio’s ability to score in a variety of ways, along with other facets to his game, made him a matchup nightmare, more so when he teamed up with UAAP Season 86 MVP frontrunner Kevin Quiambao, Evan Nelle, and Michael Phillips.
But just like his inclusion into La Salle’s lineup, playing in the brightest of stages had to wait.
In the first round of UAAP Season 86, Policarpio averaged nine minutes per game, playing no more than 14 minutes (against the UST Growling Tigers) and earning a DNP during DLSU’s first-round matchup with their archrivals the ADMU Blue Eagles. Policarpio averaged 4.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in six contests, numbers that left many wanting more.
At times, it felt like Policarpio would get subbed out just as he was getting his rhythm. Other times, it seemed as if the leash was short, more so when others were left to make error after error.
Round one seemed like a forgettable one for Policarpio and he couldn’t have asked for a better start to his second round.
The Growling Tigers seem to be Policarpio’s favorite opponent this early into his UAAP career, as he not only scored a career-high 14 points (on 54.5 percent shooting from the field) on them, but he also finished the Green Archers’ 100-69 victory over UST with a double-double off the bench thanks to his 11 rebounds.
It may have been a blowout by the time the second quarter rolled in, but Policarpio continued to play as if the outcome of the game was in the balance. That attitude should earn him more minutes in Robinson’s UAAP rotation. Policarpio had no problems scoring, as he relied on his jab step to create space and take defenders out of their element. What stood out, though, was his ability to make plays for others.
The urge to score will always be there for Policarpio (and any scorer for that matter). However, the 2022 SLAM Rising Stars Classic MVP played the role of decoy, drawing the defense to create openings for teammates. In fact, one of Policarpio’s five assists was to Evan Nelle, who is currently second in the UAAP in terms of assists.
Moving forward, the rest of the UAAP will take note of what Policarpio can bring to the table and will defend him accordingly. Fouling him might even be an option, as his 57.1 percent shooting from the free throw line doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. However, Policarpio’s finishing ability has gotten better as he continues to adjust to the UAAP’s style of play. That in turn, could negate any thoughts of sending him to the line.
Waiting has defined Jonnel Policarpio’s time with the DLSU Green Archers and his patience and the work he put in has paid off. As the crucial stretch of UAAP Season 86 begins, the hope is that Policarpio’s progress can end La Salle’s own pursuit of that elusive UAAP championship.