A lot of teams have represented a province, a town, or a city in Philippine basketball. However, for the Mindanao Aguilas, they are more than just a team. They represent an advocacy: To showcase the best basketball players of the region in a pro-am setting.
Mindanao has produced a number of potential basketball stars in the collegiate level that are sure-fire shots to have great runs in their professional careers. This list includes Mercalco’s Baser Amer, UAAP Season 78 Men’s Basketball Finals MVP Mac Belo, and Belo’s teammate Mike Tolomia to name a few.
With the growing list of Mindanao natives making their mark in both the professional and collegiate scene, Aguilas owners Roderick Andong and Antonio Chong deemed that it was about time to finally have a team based from Mindanao.
The current roster of the team is composed of Jul-Ashri Ignacio, former UE standout Gino Jumao-As, Fil-Am Taylor Whetherell, Dexter Garcia, Jaynard Rivera, Jericho De Guzman, former Adamson Soaring Falcons Ar-Rouf Julkipli and Joseph Nalos, incoming Adamson senior Ivan Villanueva, Ken Acibar, Rolando Navarro, Mark Sarangay, and CSB’s JR Ongteco. The majority of this team hails from the southernmost major island in the country.
Moreover, the Aguilas are still waiting on Filipino-American Mikey Williams, their draft pick in the 2016 PBA D-League draft. The 24 year old is currently playing for the Sioux Falls Skyforce in the NBA D-League and is averaging 4.7 points and 2.3 assists in 15 minutes of action as a reserve guard.
“We’re really blessed na napunta niya sa amin. We weren’t expecting him to fall to sixth,” said Navarro. “We saw him play in the States. He played for Team Pacquiao a few times and talagang nakita namin siya maglaro, he is the future of Philippine basketball.”
However, Williams is still finishing some commitments abroad before coming back home to the Philippines and play for the Aguilas.
With a promising roster, Aguilas head coach Nino Natividad, also from Mindanao, is hoping that the team gels quick enough to have a successful maiden campaign in the PBA D-League. “Gusto talaga namin pumasok sa Finals kung maari,” he said. “As a coach, yung goal namin is ma-form yung team as one.”
“Alam ko magagaling itong players namin. If mabigyan sila ng opportunity, sana mag-gel sila. I see them as a team who can beat anyone in the D-League if given the opportunity.”
With one goal in mind and 23,000,000 people behind them, the Aguilas are aiming to soar high in their first stint in the PBA D-League.