Right when he was finishing high school at University of Cebu, Roger Pogoy learned that a coach from Far Eastern University was looking for him.
That time, the school had staff in Cebu searching for new talent by holding a days-long tryout, which his teammates had already attended.
“High school pa lang ako noon, graduating na ‘ko. Nagpa-tryout ‘yung FEU doon sa Cebu, tapos ‘yung mga teammates ko nag-tryout,” he recalled in the 2OT podcast presented by SMART and supported by Team Phenom PH.
“Parang three days ‘yun eh. First at second day nag-tryout sila. Pang second day, sinabihan nila ako na, ‘Hinahanap ka raw ng coach ng FEU ah’.”
However, Pogoy was having second thoughts about showing up — until one morning, his father came back home from the market with a newspaper.
That newspaper had an article about FEU’s tryouts. His dad had read about it, and encouraged him to try his luck.
“Umaga non, namalengke tatay ko. Bumili siya ng newspaper, tapos nakita niya doon na nagpa-tryout ‘yung FEU. Tapos sinabi niya sa’kin na, ‘I-try kaya natin ‘to, dong?’”
And those words convinced him to go. Accompanied by his dad, Pogoy went to the tryouts, and there he met FEU coach Bert Flores.
“Si Coach Bert pala,” Pogoy recalled.
“’Di na nila ako pinalaro. Tapos biglang, ‘Ikaw ba si Pogoy?’ Sabi ko, ‘Opo, ako po.’
“Tapos sabi niya, ‘Oh, ‘wag ka na maglaro. Aalis ka na bukas. The next day, alis ka na for FEU.’ Ayun, kinausap niya ‘yung papa ko,” he added.
Sooner, Pogoy would see himself in the Tamaraws’ den. But being part of the program and proving that he belongs was another story.
For him, he had to prove that he could shine outside Cebu, where he won a CESAFI Juniors crown with UC and captured Finals MVP honors.
“Daming nagsasabi rin sa akin na sa Cebu lang daw ako magaling kasi nung unang punta ko sa FEU, ‘di ka agad ako gamit,” he said.
“Tapos sa Cebu nung high school ako, MVP ako, so parang sabi nila, ‘Ah sa Cebu lang ‘yan magaling’.”
It didn’t help that he saw limited playing time during his early years in FEU, as the team then had the likes of RR Garcia and Terrence Romeo.
All those challenges took their toll on Pogoy, so much so that he was close to giving up everything.
“Honestly ako, sumuko rin ako. Tumawag ako sa coach ko sa Cebu, sabi ko hanap kayo ng paraan para makuha ako ulit dito sa FEU kasi gusto ko nang umuwi.”
But then Pogoy had a change of heart thanks to his ever-supportive father, who simply reminded him of the importance of patience in life.
“’Yung papa ko, palaging nagsasabi sa akin na, ‘Tiis lang dong, ganiyan talaga ang buhay. Hindi naman diretso success eh’,’” he said.
“Ganiyan talaga, basta tapusin mo lang ‘yung five years diyan. SI Lord na bahala kung ano mangyayari sa ’yo.’”
Pogoy persevered. He would soon earn his place in FEU’s rotation, and in 2015, he was a vital cog in the Tamaraws’ UAAP championship run.
“By God’s grace naman, nung last year ko, talaga parang gumanon lahat. Maganda ‘yung laro ko, nag-champion pa kami. Tuloy-tuloy talaga lahat,” he said.
That championship triumph — which ended FEU’s 10-year title drought — then opened the doors for Pogoy en route to more success.
In 2016, he became part of Gilas Pilipinas 5.0, an all-amateur pool that saw action in the FIBA Asia Challenge in Tehran, Iran. That same batch entered the PBA in that same year via the special Gilas draft, which saw Pogoy taken by TNT KaTropa.
Since then, Pogoy has proven that he is very much a part of the flagship MVP franchise’s future after winning Rookie of the Year honors in 2017. He has also become a mainstay in the national team, and has been on the biggest stage of basketball after playing in the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.
Pogoy has come far from his humble beginnings, and he truly deserves everything that he is enjoying right now. And it’s all because of hard work and perseverance.
“Tiis tsaka sipag lang talaga.”