PBA: In 18th year, Caguioa continues to be Ginebra's talisman

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 19 2020 12:13 PM

PBA: In 18th year, Caguioa continues to be Ginebra's talisman 1
Ginebra guard Mark Caguioa speaks during the team's celebration of their PBA Governors' Cup title. PBA Media Bureau.

MANILA, Philippines -- Mark Caguioa may no longer be scoring or dominating as he did in his prime, but his veteran leadership and presence continue to make him invaluable for Barangay Ginebra.

Caguioa, 40, made his first appearance for the Gin Kings in the 2020 PBA Philippines Cup on Sunday when he subbed in with 6:35 left in their game against the Meralco Bolts. It officially marked his 18th season in the PBA -- the most that a player has spent with a single franchise.

Alvin Patrimonio and Harvey Carey previously held the joint record, spending 17 seasons with Purefoods and Talk 'N Text, respectively.

The Gin Kings were already well in control of the game by the time Caguioa entered, leading the Bolts, 92-68. Still, "The Spark" made sure to contribute, drilling a turnaround jumper over Trevis Jackson for his only field goal of the contest.

He finished with two points and two rebounds in a 105-91 rout. Afterward, Ginebra coach Tim Cone was effusive in his praise of Caguioa, noting that the veteran guard was "just a joy to be around."

"He's always got a sunny disposition, he's always up. He never sulks, he never gets upset. He just has that kind of personality, his teammates love him," said the coach.

Caguioa, the PBA's Most Valuable Player in 2012, has taken on a mentorship role off the court. According to Cone, he has taken their rookies Arvin Tolentino, Kent Salado, and Jerrick Balanza under his wing.

"He probably talks to them more than anybody else in the team," said Cone.

Caguioa is also the player who continuously reminds the Gin Kings of their responsibility to their massive fanbase. No fans are allowed at the Angeles University Foundation Gym in Pampanga because of the strict protocols of the PBA bubble, but Cone said they never forget who they are playing for.

"Mark is always talking about the fans, talking about the fans before the game, reminding us who we're playing for, even though they're not out there in the stands," said the coach.

As much as he praises Caguioa's leadership, Cone also pointed out that the guard "can still fill it up." Caguioa no longer sees heavy minutes. In last season's All-Filipino Cup, he played just four games and averaged less than nine minutes in those contests.

But when he gets the chance to suit up, Caguioa shows he still has it -- as evidenced by how he backed down the younger Jackson in the post on Sunday night before coolly draining the turnaround jump shot.

"He doesn't demand anything," Cone said of Caguioa. "You know, with his past history and who he is, he could really demand."

"But he doesn't, he's just a really, really good guy," he added. "So it's great to see him, it's great to have him on the team… He has a real strong leadership presence on our team."

"We just really enjoy Mark being here and being part of the team and leading the young guys."