ROOKIE Chris Newsome has gotten what he wished for just before the PBA Governors Cup Finals.
Not a championship trophy, but a Mark Caguioa Barangay Ginebra jersey which the superstar guard personally handed to him in the din of the Kings’ celebration following their title conquest of the season-ending tournament.
The 36-year-old Caguioa quickly approached Newsome after the Bolts received their runner-up trophy in a makeshift stage at centercourt of the Smart Araneta Coliseum, removed his famed No. 47 jersey and gave it to the Meralco guard, before offering him some comforting words.
It was Caguioa’s way of honoring someone who he inspired to come over here and play in Asia’s first ever play-for-pay league.
“Sinabi ko, 'Okay Chris, I know you don’t want this jersey right now,' but I promised him that I’d gonna give him my jersey,” said the former league MVP of his post-game gesture to Newsome.
Just before the best-of-seven finals, the Meralco freshman admitted owning a Caguioa playing jersey which his mother brought home as souvenir to his then 12-year-old kid when she went back to the US following a brief stay in the country.
“Seeing that jersey kind of introduced me to Philippine basketball,” admitted the 26-year-old Fil-Am from San Jose, California to the amusement of Caguioa.
Newsome later said that win or lose in the title series, he hopes to get another one of Caguioa’s Ginebra uniforms.
The longtime face of the Ginebra franchise was more than willing to grant Newsome’s wish, albeit tentatively especially in the aftermath of the Kings’ thrilling 91-88 win over the Bolts in Wednesday night’s Game Six at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“Sabi ko sa kanya, 'Chris, don’t throw it away. Just give it to your mom,'” said a smiling Caguioa.
But the 36-year-old former league MVP has nothing but respect for the Rookie of the Year awardee, who performed way beyond expectations in the Meralco franchise’s first trip to the finals.
Caguioa singled out Newsome as the one who made life miserable for the Kings during the course of the title series.
“He’s a tough guy man. Nakita mo siya ‘yung nagpapadikit kanina. Sa kanya kami nahirapan,” he said of the high-flying guard from Ateneo, who topscored for Meralco in the deciding match with 19 points on 8 of 14 shooting, and added seven rebounds and three assists while playing for 44 minutes.
Along with another rookie in Scottie Thompson, his Barangay Ginebra teammate, Caguioa sees Newsome becoming a force to be reckoned with in the league in the near future.
“These rookies who played here today, they’re awesome players,” he said. “They’re gonna be in this league for a long time.”