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Warren Bonifacio: From the Bench to the Big League

Article by: Crismhil S. Anselmo and Kandhalvi Maidinshifwell-Asaali

Graphics by: Guinevere Rocel N. Rocamora

In a treacherous flight throughout the previous National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Season 97 Men's Basketball Tournament, the Mapúa Cardinals painted the league’s courts red and gold with their renewed vigor. Under the key leadership of Team Captain Warren Bonifacio, the Men’s Basketball Team ended Mapúa University (MU)’s nearly three-decade drought finals appearance.

As the NCAA returns with a new season, The New Builder introduces the man who led the University back to the league’s podium. Get to know his humble beginnings, his aspirations, and the legacy he is building through his historic run as the King Cardinal.

Starting from the benches

Hailing from San Simon, Pampanga, Warren is currently a fourth-year computer engineering student from the School of Electrical, Electronics, and Computer Engineering who started out as a basketball-loving kid.

Looking back on his journey to becoming a student-athlete, the 6-foot-4 center shared that it was his brother who inspired him to pursue basketball. In his youth, Warren remembered watching his brother play and stir crowds with his performance, prompting him to pursue the same sport.

The Cards’ Team Captain started off his basketball career in 2012 by joining local leagues in his hometown. He admitted that he was still inexperienced and had a lot to work on. “Noong time na ‘yon, isang bench player lang ako and ‘pag pinasok ako, pinagtatawanan ako kasi hindi ako marunong maglaro ng basketball [at] that time,” he recalled.

Despite being ridiculed, the then-basketball aspirant made sure not to be let down by what others had to say. Instead, he used the situation as his motivation to work harder and focus on improving as an athlete.

Shooting for the big leagues

For Warren, reaching his current poled peak was no easy hike. He went through tough storms and winds as the Team Captain of the Mapúa ballers – both during his Red Robins (Juniors) and Mapúa Cardinals (Seniors) era – to helm his team towards their current glory. He added that his biggest struggle as a basketball player was his inexperience, being underweight, and his struggles in guarding his opponents.

Throughout his athletic journey, the red and gold captain earned two of the biggest landmarks in Mapúan basketball history. Back in 2016, Bonifacio led the Red Robins to a historical win, ending the 16-year drought of the team and making it Mapúa’s first championship title for the juniors’ division. They also became a runner-up in the following season.

As he ventured into his college years in 2018, he once again led the team and accomplished another historical feat in the recently concluded NCAA Season 97 Men's Basketball Tournament as the Mapúa Cardinals made their first finals appearance after 27 years.

Bonifacio emphasized that these historical landmarks hold his most treasured matches: the NCAA Juniors’ Championship match from 2016 and the Final Four match against the San Beda University Red Lions last season. This recent milestone proved to be one of his most memorable because they received overwhelming support from the Mapúan community.

Scoring for legacy

As the Cardinals’ Captain Ball, Warren inarguably gave it his all throughout the team’s run in the NCAA Season 97, earning himself a reputation as one of MU’s vital players. This manifested prominently in last season’s game against the San Sebastian College – Recoletos Golden Stags, wherein he was hailed as the Best Player of the Game after tallying 16 points, 14 rebounds, and two assists. From the elimination round until the Finals, Bonifacio poised his team by setting up the court from inside and outside the perimeter.

In preparation for the current season, Warren, alongside seven other players from the Mapua Cardinals, was drafted under the Marinerong Pilipino Skippers that earned the first runner-up title in the Philippine Basketball Association Developmental League Aspirants’ Cup 2022 last August.

In NCAA Season 98, he was also named the Best Player of the Game in their last match in the first round of the eliminations wherein they took control of the Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals, bringing in 16 points, 10 rebounds, one assist, and one steal for the team.

When asked about his plans after playing for MU, Warren admitted that he would not be closing the doors if opportunities to become a professional basketball player arise. However, just as Mapúa Cardinals Head Coach Randy Alcantara reminded them, he will still prioritize his studies.

Lagi niya sinasabi sa ‘min na mag-aral kami nang mabuti dahil kung sakaling hindi kami swertehin sa basketball, at least may diploma kaming maipagmamalaki,” he shared.

One thing that Warren has learned from basketball and has been implementing on and off the court is the art of self-discipline. He imparted some advice to fellow athletes that to become a good player, one has to develop self-discipline and hard work in exercising, “Laban lang nang laban, hard work lang palagi sa ensayo and makinig mabuti sa mga coaches and ‘wag na ‘wag papabayaan ang pagaaral,” the student athlete imparted.

The Team Captain Warren Bonifacio, along with Shooting Guard Adrian Clarence Nocum, will be participating in the GMA-NCAA All-Stars Basketball match as part of Team Heroes today, October 15, at 2:30 PM, at the Filoil EcoOil Centre. They will be joined by Philippine Basketball stars and Kapuso artists during the game.

The red and gold squad will also continue their redemption bid as they battle against the Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates tomorrow, October 16, at 12:00 PM, at the same venue.

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