Love him or hate him, Mark Caguioa is raring to stay with Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.
The 41-year-old Caguioa recently capped off his 19th season in the PBA with a historic Philippine Cup bubble championship–his ninth overall title–as the Kings took down TNT in the finals, 4-1.
While many are expecting him to retire with his one-year contract extension set to expire soon, the veteran guard is leaving the decision to the team management.
“Like I said, my target is 20 years. It’s really up to the management. If I need to hang it up (then so be it). I would still love to play but ‘di ko rin masasabi. I’m ready for it,” said Caguioa, who was the lone player left from the Ginebra squad that last won the all-Filipino title for the franchise in 2007.
The one-time PBA MVP, who was drafted third overall by the Kings in 2001, saw limited action in the bubble season as he only played an average of roughly six minutes in three games.
But that did not matter as long as he got the legion of “kabarangays” behind him.
“The fans are really the ones who keep me going. Like I said, I really get sad just thinking about that day (retirement), not being with my teammates, the fans. Dito na ‘ko lumaki. I just turned 21 years old nung nandito ako sa Ginebra. Right now, I’m 41 years old so kalahati ng buhay ko dito sa Ginebra,” he said.
“Maski tawagin nila akong Gatorade, hey, I got the best seat in the house.”
Coach Tim Cone emphasized that “The Spark” now shines brighter for Ginebra off the court and the league’s winningest mentor wants him back for another year.
“I’m hoping Mark Caguioa decides to play one more year only because he’s just such a presence on the team. He’s a presence in the locker room, he’s a presence at practice. Incredibly positive influence to the younger players,” said the 23-time champion tactician.
Looking back, the member of the 40 Greatest Players is relishing his career wherein he experienced golden years during his early days, title droughts and now a resurgence of the Kings under Cone.
“It’s been a roller coaster ride for me. Buti talaga nagawan nila ng paraan na makarating dito si coach Tim. Thanks to boss RSA (Ramon S. Ang) and coach Al (Alfrancis Chua) na napapunta nila si coach Tim dito. Kung magre-retire man ako, I have five championships in five years. What else can I ask for?”
“Ang tingin ko nga dyan kay coach Tim, parang si Oprah eh. ‘You get a championship, you get a championship, everyone gets a championship!’ Everywhere he goes man. I’m just so glad I’m in this team now. Tumatanda nga ‘ko pero we’re winning championships. That’s the best thing that could ever happen to me.”
And Caguioa would absolutely love to win more with Cone.