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Updated: Mar 19

On January 14, 2001, Mark Caguioa became the third player picked in the 2001 PBA Draft. Now unlike Fil Ams Mike Hrabak and John Arigo as well as MBA veterans Willie Miller, Francis Adriano, and Gilbert Demape as well as PBL standouts Marvin Ortiguerra and Roger Yap, Mark Caguioa is a virtual unknown.

And yet, we regard Ginebra’s move to select Caguioa as a franchise game-changer. Caguioa is regarded as one of Ginebra’s all-time best players in terms of skills and popularity. His swagger was seen by many as the second coming of Robert Jaworski. Caguioa started his rookie year on the bench and played behind Vergel Meneses. The Aerial Voyager is one of the PBA's greatest players and in some ways, playing in the same position as Meneses would often signal a proverbial career glass ceiling. Kenneth Duremdes had to transfer to Alaska in order to realize his greatness and his move to Pop Cola caused the career plateau of Dwight Lago. Brixter Encarnacion never stood a chance and perhaps Apet Jao could have had a better career if only Presto drafted a big man like Stevenson Solomon or Jolly Escobar instead of playing the same position as Meneses and Allan Caidic.

But in 2001, Caguioa managed to break the curse. Meneses may be a legend but when the fourth quarter rolls around and the Kings needed a spark off the bench, Mark Caguioa gets the nod. And for two decades, we have seen the Gin Kings rely on Caguioa for either a longstanding offensive attack or that one single make-or-break play.

After realizing the awesomeness of Mark Caguioa, PBA teams through the years gambled their draft picks for the next Mark Caguioa – with some succeeding and some to disappointing results.




There were three Fil-Ams selected in the first round of the 2003 PBA Draft. Jimmy Alapag started off badly because he got injured in 2002 and while Harvey Carey is also a virtual unknown like Brandon Lee Cablay and in some ways, Eugene Tejada as well, Brandon Lee Cablay is the closest to Caguioa in terms of playing style and physique. In fact, I liked matching up with these guys when I was still a newbie promo writer on Channel 4 because of the star power they brought. Caguioa has the swagger and an awesome mid-range jumper but Cablay has his athleticism.

But while Caguioa had to work hard to wow the audiences as part of the league’s fan favorites, Cablay had to endure the expectations right from the get-go as Alaska had to give up Kenneth Duremdes and their second-round pick for Sta. Lucia’s first-round pick and a second-round pick in 2003 (the selections turned out to be Cablay and Tejada for Alaska and former Negros Slasher Leo Bat-Og for Sta. Lucia). Sky High Cablay never became the player that Caguioa became – but maybe the reason he never really became the player we thought he would be is because of injuries. Unofficially, Cablay played in 112 in his first two years but only played 136 games in his next nine seasons. When healthy though, you can see that Cablay had the potential to soar – with the 2003 PBA Invitational Cup as his best conference – winning a championship and the Finals MVP award in the process.




With the initial success of Brandon Lee Cablay, the 2004 PBA Draft rolled in with the next mystery target. The 2004 PBA Draft had Rich Alvarez going first and former MVPs and almost MVPs like James Yap, Marc Pingris, Ranidel De Ocampo, Sonny Thoss, and Gary David in the first round. Also, Red Bull selected Denver Lopez as their first-round pick. Yeng Guiao has a tendency to create unlikely stars as he did with Junthy Valenzuela, Cyrus Baguio, Beau Belga, Jeff Chan, Jireh Ibanes, and other notables. Guiao also has a tendency to bench egos. While some stars get the treatment when their careers are winding down (like Asi Taulava, Larry Fonacier, Vince Hizon, Vergel Meneses, and others), others get this during their rookie year.

I don’t know if Lopez was a headcase in Red Bull but 2004 was the year when Guiao finally let Baguio out of his doghouse after playing just four games in his rookie year. The team still had the peak forms of Valenzuela, Lordy Tugade, Jimwell Torion, Topex Robinson, and Jon Ordonio at the guard spots with the team still looking to develop Davonn Harp, Enrico Villanueva, and Mick Pennisi. Ultimately, Lopez was traded to San Miguel for Bryan Gahol but was rarely a factor. When Shell left the league, Denver was one of the players taken by Welcoat in the 2005 dispersal draft. Lopez actually had a good first year with Welcoat and was on the verge of following it up with a better second year but an injury as well as the re-brand of Welcoat to Rain or Shine forced him into retirement in 2009. In some ways, Lopez could have been a good player for San Miguel’s Death Five. He enjoyed his best years in the PBA with Leo Austria calling the shots for the Dragons. If we can compare Caguioa to Lopez, The Spark lucked out on the opportunities while Denver just missed out on a lot.




Nowadays, it’s easy to see that Alex Cabagnot’s gameplay is way different from what we saw from Mark Caguioa. In fact, Jayjay Helterbrand is a better rival to the career-long brilliance of The Crunchman. However, as per one of my all-time favorite plugs, Alex Cabagnot came to the PBA with a reputation. Playing high school ball at Eagle Rock High School, Alex Cabagnot shattered Caguioa’s scoring record.

So yeah, when Cabagnot debuted in 2005, the rivalry was there. Initially, A-Cab struggled in Sta. Lucia but he would develop into an all-time best player beginning with his stint in Coca-Cola, leading to his time with the San Miguel Beermen. Caguioa might have won an MVP but Cabagnot will end his career with multiple individual and team accolades – with the 2016-17 PBA season as the cherry on top with a Mythical First Team, a Finals MVP, and two of his nine championships to show.




Before playing for the Gin Kings in his lone PBA season, the only claim to fame of Kevin White is that he was Jimmy Alapag’s nephew. On the verge of becoming undrafted, a stacked Talk N Text selected White as the second to the last pick of the 2009 PBA Draft. He was then left unsigned because TNT at that time, had too many Fil-Ams in their roster. Yes, White is a second-rounder, but he can also surprise the crowd.

White averaged with almost five points, a rebound, and an assist in his lone PBA season. White played behind Caguioa and Helterbrand as well as Celino Cruz, Willie Miller (traded to Ginebra for Cyrus Baguio), Mike Cortez, Ronald Tubid, and a returning Johnny Abarrientos. His numbers aren’t enough to be noteworthy but for a late second-rounder, his numbers aren’t that bad. With that said, he could have been great had he flourished since this was the time when injuries also haunted Helterbrand and the rest of the Kings.




I remember writing about Julius Pasculado en route to the 2011 PBA Draft. No one has seen him play but for some reason, my blog was receiving views. The Chicago native is heavily pimped by his friends and relatives as a player that can draw raves in the PBA. Filipinos abroad support the people in their community and there is nothing wrong in showing love to their homeboy.

With that said, Pasculado applied in a draft that was headlined by the original Smart-Gilas players. With the exception of Allein Maliksi, all the players picked in the first round were either part of the team or were considered part of the team. And while Maliksi was overshadowed by Dylan Ababou at UST, he rose to prominence by becoming the first-ever PBA D-League MVP. Also, Pasculado was drafted to a team that picked four players with Mac Baracael taken in the first round and Eric Salamat and Ariel Mepana joining him in the second round. Pasculado only played in one game and less than two minutes before losing his roster spot. Pasculado would resurface in the MPBL a couple of years later but at this point, the PBA is overloaded with Fil-Am combo guards. The PBA would then issue a rule that Fil-Ams need to log time with the PBA D-League – making Pasculado the last mystery player to skip the D-League until they amended the rules a couple of seasons ago.


But the outcome of Pasculado’s PBA career stretches back to the 2009 PBA Draft. The thing about the Fil-Am combo guards is that aside from outplaying each other, they have to outplay the best of the PBA. When Mark Caguioa came to the league in 2001, there was an influx of Fil-Ams but most of them are burly power forwards or oversized slashers. Back then and until now, Filipino guards are known for their ability to take charge and make the right decisions. The current flock of Fil-Am guards arguably based their gameplay on the combo guards of that era, which are probably Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, Deron Williams, Steve Francis, Baron Davis, and Gilbert Arenas. In fact, it’s basically the archetype of guys like Chris Ross, Chris Timberlake, Kevin White, Josh Urbiztondo, Josh Vanlandingham, Shawn Weinstein, Pasculado, AJ Mandani, Karl Dehesa, Justin Melton, Philip Morrison, and Stanley Pringle. In 2015, Maverick Ahanmisi got a first-round nod while Simon Enciso, Kris Rosales, and Abel Galliguez were taken in the second round but combo guards like Mike DiGregorio, Jerramy King, Ryan Wetherell, Jawhar Purdy, Alli Austria, and Randy Dilay were taken in the lower rounds. Needless to say, with surprise packages not being surprises anymore with the PBA rules and the technology we live in, it’s hard for a Fil-Am to escape our sights.

But this blog is not yet over.





I know he’s not a Mark Caguioa clone. In fact, he’s probably more of an Asi Taulava carbon copy than a Spark one. But Shaw represented the idea of finding the next Mark Caguioa. While Shaw’s career has spanned leagues and continents, he is also an injury-plagued player in his mid-30s. With Isaac Go in the Special Round, Blackwater is tasked to either pick the former Thai import or miss out on the chance of having an import in the Philippine Cup.

Maurice Shaw ended up scoring two points in three games. Blackwater could have taken Arvin Tolentino and Aaron Black who were basically late first and second-rounders. Shaw came and went just didn’t do much. Simon Camacho, the 34th pick of the draft, has had a better career than Shaw. With his height and if he regains his import-like form, he can still salvage his PBA career. With that said though, he’s already pushing 40 and this is not a good look for a player who wants to start a PBA career.

Mark Caguioa is undoubtedly a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He will go down in record books for the way he played and the impact he provided. Back in the day, I remember when you were either a Caguioa fan or a James Yap fan – because these two were the poster boys of the league during the mid-to-late 2000s.

But there is a reason why The Spark is hailed as such. He is a one-of-a-kind talent in Ginebra lucked out of acquiring. Up to this day, teams are still looking for that mystery guy who can propel their team to the top. It might not be in the PBA (unless you’re a local from a South league playing in the regional leagues) but Fil-Ams of his caliber can still be seen in the UAAP and NCAA.

But, without his swagger, though.

Get Sydrified.

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