IT took Mark Caguioa 11 years to savor this moment, but the wait is definitely worth it.
The 32-year old Ginebra shooting guard distinguished himself as the best of the season when he romped away with the MVP award on Sunday during the PBA Annual Leo Awards at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
`The Spark’ totaled 2,399 points to win the league’s highest individual award for the first time in his colorful pro career spanning for more than a decade. The hotshot guard out of Glendale Community College bested a talented and well-deserving field that included Gary David (Powerade), two-time MVP James Yap (B-Meg) and Arwind Santos (Petron).
The Ginebra franchise player became the seventh former Rookie of the Year to romp off with the MVP award after Ricky Brown, Allan Caidic, Benjie Paras, Danny Ildefonso, Jimmy Alapag, and Kelly Williams. He won Rookie of the Year in 2001, the season when he emerged just the No. 3 pick overall in the Draft behind Willie Miller and Mike Hrabak.
“It’s very humbling and a great experience for me to receive this trophy. Ibang klase talaga, ” said Caguioa, splendid in his black chaleco over stripped, blue long sleeve polo and black pants.
Caguioa became the third Ginebra player to win the MVP trophy after Eric Menk (2004-05) and JayJay Helterbrand (2008-09). His partnership with Helterbrand, the Kings’ version of `The Fast and The Furious,’ also produced the league’s first-ever backcourt MVP tandem on the same team.
Winner of back-to-back Best Player of the Conference awards (Commissioner’s and Governors Cup), the popular Ginebra player was last in the statistical points standings (SPS) among the four contenders with 924 points, but made up for it by topping the media votes (978), players’ votes (197), and votes from the PBA Office (300).
Caguioa won it without leading the Kings to any of the three conference finals -- the first player to do so.
“Yun nga ang masakit. Kasi this individual award is just for me. Like I said before, if you go to the finals, you win a championship with your team. And that’s what I try to build on,” he added.
David finished second in one of the most tightly-fought MVP races in league history with 1,891 points. The Powerade stalwart topped the statistics with 1,114, finished second in media votes (595) but lost badly among the players (132) and PBA Office (50).
`El Granada’ positioned himself for the MVP award behind a remarkable showing in the Philippine Cup, which saw him steer the Tigers to a stunning Finals appearance, and went away with the Best Player of the Conference crown.
Yap made a late run for a third MVP trophy following back-to-back Finals stint by the Llamados in the Commissioners (champion) and Governors Cup. `Big Game James’ came in third with 1,417 points and was second in players’ votes (153) and votes by the PBA Office (150).
Santos brought up the rear with 1,087 points.
Caguioa, David, Yap, and Santos comprised the Mythical First Team, together with Ranidel de Ocampo (Talk `N Text), while Rookie of the Year (ROY) Paul Lee (Rain or Shine) was included in the Second Team along with the Talk `N Text pair of Jayson Castro and Kelly Williams, Alaska’s Sonny Thoss, and Lee’s teammate Jeff Chan, also the winner of the Most Improved Player award.
Lee bested JV Casio for the ROY trophy with 2,585 points. The Powerade point guard on the one hand only had 1,711 points, but consoled himself by beating Peter June Simon for the Sportsmanship award, 2,597-2,316.
Chan (4,756) made it a double celebration for the Elasto Painters by emerging as runaway winner of the Most Improved Player award over Josh Urbiztondo (339).
Santos led the All-Defensive Team together with Marc Pingris (B-Meg), Doug Kramer (Barako), Jireh Ibanes (Rain or Shine), and Ryan Reyes (Talk `N Text).