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"Spark" still under rehab in US for knee injury

Jong Uichico could have not wished for a better time to have Mark Caguioa back in the lineup than in the playoffs of the 2009 Motolite PBA Fiesta Conference.

Too bad, Caguioa’s injury indicates his chances of rejoining the team in its title defense is only wishful thinking.

The Barangay Ginebra coach revealed that his high-scoring guard will be out for the remainder of the season as he continues to undergo rehab for his injured knee.

Although the turn of events wasn’t encouraging, Uichico has accepted their fate and didn’t include Caguioa in their roster last May 30, the deadline for all teams in the playoffs to submit their final lineup.

“He can play, but hindi talaga 100 percent. So we decided not to put him in the lineup,” said the soft-spoken mentor.

Caguioa has not played a single game for the league’s crowd darling since sustaining the injury -- that also cost him a slot in the Powerade Team Pilipinas of coach Yeng Guiao -- during the Kings’ amazing title run in last season’s Fiesta tourney.

The prolific Ginebra stalwart who led the Kings’ local last season in scoring with his 19.8 ppg average had shown great recovery in his rehabilitation early this year and Uichico was very hopeful that Caguioa would be able to rejoin the team midway into the season-ending tournament.

However, Caguioa’s latest health bulletin indicated he is just 80-90 percent healed from the injury.

“Maganda `yung improvement niya from February until April, that’s why we were hoping he could make a comeback by May. But somehow, nitong mga nakaraang araw medyo bumagal `yung recovery niya.

“So we deemed it proper not to let him play na lang. Huwag na lang muna madaliin dahil sayang lang kung ma-injured siya uli,” offered Uichico.

The Barangay Ginebra coach said he’s in constant touch with Caguioa as well as with the physical therapist taking care of the latter in the US.

“Right now, we’re trying to get him over here para dito na siya mag-continue ng rehabilitation,” Uichico said.

Without Caguioa, Uichico said the Kings lost one major offensive option in their title retention bid.

“Mark is always good for 15 points or more on any given night. He’s always a scoring threat for our opponents,” Uichico stressed.

Nevertheless, life goes on for the Kings, who beat the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in a playoff, 114-71, last March 24 to claim the second outright semifinal berth. The other outright semifnal spot belonged to elimination round topnotcher San Miguel Beer.

“We’ve survived at this point without him (Caguioa). So we’re keeping our fingers crossed that we’ll be able to go farther now that we’re fully aware Mark is not going to play for us,” said Uichico.

The defending champion Kings will be meeting the winner of the quarterfinals series between Rain or Shine and Purefoods in a best-of-seven semifinal showdown which starts on Wednesday, June 17.

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