Aguilas showcase Mindanao players in D-League, hope to produce next Barroca, Tolomia
Zamboanga's Mark Barroca and Mike Tolomia are some of the players from Mindanao now making waves in the big leagues. Jerome Ascano

THE Mindanao Aguilas are out to showcase the basketball talent from their region when they compete in the PBA D-League for the first time.

Rolando Navarro Jr., part-owner of the squad, said most of the players in the roster of the rookie team for the coming Aspirants Cup trace their roots to Mindanao.

Navarro said the team's goal is to develop players good enough to make it to the PBA and follow in the footsteps of some stars from Zamboanga who are now strutting their wares in the big leagues.

“Inspiration namin ‘yung mga players galing ng Zamboanga,” said Navarro during a simple launch at the World Chicken University Mall branch in Manila.

“Hopefully, maka-produce kami ng next (Mark) Barroca, next (Mike) Tolomia, at marami pang iba kasi most of the players ay galing sa Mindanao.”

The Aguilas debut in the Aspirants Cup on Monday against Café France-Centro Escolar University, the champion in the last Foundation Cup.

Mindanao coach Nino Rhoel Natividad knows the challenge of competing against the best teams in the D-League.

“Siyempre gusto naming pumasok sa finals hangga’t maari. Pero siyempre, we will take it one game at a time. Kung makakapasok man, sana sa semis. As a coach, ang goal ko is mabuo namin ‘yung team as one,” said Natividad.

The team is composed of Choi Ignacio, Gino Jumao-as, Taylor Wetherell, Dexter Garcia, Jaynard Rivera, Jericho De Guzman, Ar-Rouf Julkipli, Ivan Villanueva, Kenneth Acibar, Joseph Nalos, Mark Sarangay, and JR Ongteco.

Natividad is optimistic the team can be competitive this conference, pointing out that the Aguilas only lost by a slim margin to UAAP champion Far Eastern University, whose core will be leading the campaign of Phoenix Petroleum this conference.

“I don’t care kung magaling na team o high profile. I see that our team can beat any team in the D-League given the opportunity," he said.

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