After a decade-long absence from the local basketball scene, the Pagadian Explorers will return — this time in the Mindanao leg of the 2021 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup.
The Explorers were one-time finalists in the National Basketball Conference before competing in Liga Pilipinas during the late 2000s.
Team owner and incumbent Pagadian mayor Sammy Co made sure to revive the team for the country’s first-ever professional basketball league based in the south.
“Before, we already had a team. I don’t know what happened because I was out of politics for six years. Right now, I have another first term and I made sure to revive a team,” said Co, who tapped the likes of Nelson Asaytono and Elbert Alberto during their time with the NBC and Liga.
“It would really help our youth and encourage them na ma-hook sa games and not ma-hook sa drugs.“
Headlining the team is 6-foot-6 Mark Benitez. He previously played for Rizal-Xentro Mall during the 2019-21 Chooks-to-Go MPBL Lakan Cup.
Joining him are Arellano transferees Rich Guinitiran and CJ Pamaran — both of whom already secured their special guest licenses from the Games and Amusements Board back on April 8. There is also Keanu Caballero, formerly of Taguig in the National Basketball League.
Completing the squad are Orvelle Saludsod, John Edros Quimado, Arman Demigaya, Kenneth Singedas, Elizalde Sunogan, Kenth Baldeo, Kem Jhon Diva, Von Dechos, Ruben Caballero, Jehzreel Acaylar, Jeric Serrano, Rex Quilo, Christian Manalo, Rey Bolotaolo, Godfred Helido, and Jan Villaver.
Serving as head coach is Harold Sta. Cruz, while taking the team manager role is Dodong Pamaran. Sta. Cruz was the head coach who guided Paranaque to the inaugural championship of NBL-Pilipinas.
“Siyempre we want to promote our province and tell the country that there is a city called Pagadian. Also, we want to win, but in sports, siyempre may nananalo at natatalo. We just want the players to play our best,” said Co about his modest goals in the league.
Besides putting up a team, Co also made a bid to host the Grand Finals of the league, set this August. He wants the VisMin Super Cup to be first league to play in their newly-constructed gym in Plaza Luz.
“We have a newly constructed venue. Sana yung VisMin yung maka-break in sa court natin.”