(Photo from Sun.Star Cebu/Arni Aclao)
Basketball I watched the other night. At the Old Cebu Coliseum, the Enervon/UC Webmasters dribbled against the Maria Sanctuary Park/USJ-R Jaguars in Game 3 of the CESAFI-sanctioned Partners Cup.
Ramon Fernandez, a four-time MVP at the PBA, sat to my left together with his wife, Karla Kintanar, while Chao Sy, the owner of Hotel Fortuna and the man financing the SWU squad in this event, sat to my right.
Our four pairs of eyes enlarged. Fronting us stood a being so large; a gargantuan figure who towered like the Taipei 101. Standing 6’9”, ask him to point his arms to the ceiling and he’ll nearly touch the 10-foot-tall ring. With just one little hop and an orange ball on hand, he’d slam-dunk.
June Mar Fajardo, all of 19 years young, is his name and, playing for team University of Cebu, what an Incredible Hulk. No, he’s not brawny and all-muscle—not yet—but the way he monopolizes the game is unlike anything I’ve seen.
Greg Slaughter, last year, I observed for a few games with his UV squad. Standing 7-feet in height, Slaughter is taller and heftier but Fajardo is more agile, quick-witted and, in my view, more domineering.
Last Tuesday, the UC Webmasters beat the USJ-R Jaguars, 96-88, to reach the finals. The reason? One titan: JMF. When the game see-sawed in the fourth quarter, the Atty. Augusto Go-owned team had all but one play: Pass to June Mar. And how it worked. In those 10 minutes of the final quarter, he scored 15 points. In all, he top-scored with 39 points. The 15 points June Mar scored in the fourth quarter? That’s more than the score of his team’s second-best scorer, Edward Pao, who made 14.
At the low post, where Fajardo would cement his feet, he’s unrelenting. Guarded by a USJ-R center nearly half-a-foot shorter, Fajardo would recline his back, dribble two bounces, turn around, then skyhook. Swoosh!
An inbounds pass from his teammate? No problem. He’d catch it midair then effortlessly drop the rubber ball for an easy two-pointer. On another play, he was double-teamed, lost the ball in a scuffle, retrieved it from the parquet floor, then turned around for an 8-footer.
Dunk? Of course! On one play, he faced his back on the ring, jumped, then twisted to deliver a monstrous dunk. Kabbooom!
In the middle of all this ruthless display of offense, I turned to Mon Fernandez and asked, “Fajardo in the PBA?”
Within a split-second and as if to say, “What a question, John!” Mon answered, “For sure!”
But if there’s one area that Fajardo, an HRM student who hails from Pinamungahan, Cebu, needs to improve it’s the free throw. From the several attempts on that 15-foot line that I observed, June Mar missed plenty. Which made me whisper to Chao Sy, “Why not foul him as soon as he gets the ball and do a Hack-a-Shaq?” (Hack-a-Shaq, if you recall, was the strategy of Shaquille O’Neal’s opponents to foul the 50-percent-foul-shooter so he can miss free-throws.)
To me, and if I were the USJ-R Jaguars’ coach, it was the one obvious strategy against a leviathan like Fajardo who, when within 10 feet away from the ring, was almost sure to score.
How about his defense? It was compelling. The Jaguars penetrated—then would retreat. He blocked more shots than I’ve ever seen in a ballgame. His mere 6-foot-9 presence at the center scared the enemies.
FINALS. With the other semi-finals game between Prime Asia-UV and Hotel Fortuna-SWU, I only watched the first half. In the end, after UV led by as much as 14 points in the first quarter, the Green Lancers’ fortunes were beaten by Hotel Fortuna, 76-69.
Though I sat a foot away from Chao Sy, I secretly wished that UV would win. The reason: Imagine a 7-foot behemoth in Slaughter guarding a 6-foot-9 giant Fajardo?
“TWIN TOWERS!” the headline will read.
It wasn’t to be. By night’s end, only one giant was left standing.
“Old Cebu Coliseum” Hahahahaha
I also watch that game…I’m Fajardo fanatic…I agree to you that Fajardo is much better than Slaughter…Even though Slaughter is higher, heavier and supposed to be stronger…But from what I observe,??..I dont think so…sorry to say this but Fajardo is more intelegent, more aggressive, productive (number 1..scoring, rebound), and most of all much talented than Slaughter….Maybe Fajardo can be the next Best Center in the PBA,,..what do you think?
Wow!! Another great story…
Actually i’m not an avid fan of Cesafi basketball because i think they are not that good players unlike with the UAAP. But by reading your article, you have changed their image.
Yeah!! You’re a great sportwriter.
I want to be like you someday…
yes, iv seen fajardo played and i think he will dominate slaughter.
I’ve seen June Mar played during a PCCL game last year. UC were defeated because june mar really suck at the free throw line.
He won the MVP of that tournament i think due to his dominance. It’s true he is dominant BUT he is dominant because most players who played in that league stand below him in terms of height. If it were an international league like FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2011 for example, June Mar might end up a ghost. A dud.
Sorry to cut your happiness short. If JUNE MAR REALLY WANTS TO BE THAT DOMINANT, he should IMPROVE his all around game. June Mar, you should set standards that will make you at par with players who play the international tournaments like FIBA ASIA, ASIAN GAMES, EUROLEAGUE and THE NBA. If the internationals are happy to see you play dominant in these tournaments, i’m sure they will sign you up to play for the NBA. Look at Haddadi of Iran. He was a dominant center playing for Iran and he led his team in defeating China in the Finals of FIBA Asia. He was the MVP of that tournament. Today, Haddadi plays for Memphis Grizzlies.
DREAM BIG DREAMS June Mar. Only BIG DREAMS can move men’s souls. And HOLD ON TO YOUR DREAMS. Don’t just be contented with playing for the PBA someday.
If you only contend yourself in playing in the PBA, YOU WILL NEVER IMPROVE. I remember Sonny Thoss said on TV before he was drafted in the PBA that he already set his goals to play for the NBA. An ambitious dream however he didn’t hold on to his dream. It’s his and our loss also. Why? Say, if he did hold on to his dream, he could have played for the NBA and his experience would have made a great impact to our game. Maybe he could have carry Philippines to glory again.
You’re still an amateur but our nation already has great hope in you. Our nation have sacrificed so many years in trying to regain our basketball glory but to be honest with you, playing only just for the PBA is just a waste of time and talent.
You have all the potential to be an NBA player but you have to improve everything in your game.
1. FREE THROW.
Asi Taulava and Malou Aquino. Future PBA legends are duds in free throws. Don’t be like them. You have time to improve.
If you really want to be the best june mar, why don’t you improve your free throws and make it a priority? in the low post, this is one of the best weapon you can use against your enemy.
2. PERIMETER SHOOTING
Ramon Fernandez and Alvin Patrimonio were great perimeter scorers and great low post players at the same time. Too bad they were undersized in their respective positions. If only Mon and Alvin were say 6’8 or 6’9, they could have played for the NBA.
June Mar, I haven’t seen you strut your game in the perimeter. If there were any, it’s rare. Why? what are you AFRAID of? Your Team offense might drop? That’s not an excuse. How can you tell it will drop if you will not try shooting from the perimeter say 15 feet? If that is your thinking, you will never excel. No perimeter game, you will become one dimensional. Easy for the defense to read. Again, Asi Taulava is an example of a one dimensional center. Poor Free Throw Shooter and No perimeter Game. Easy to defend. Even Hatfield can defend Asi One on One. So to be a great player, be also a great perimeter scorer aside from being a great low post scorer. Why don’t you analyze Hakeem Olajuwon’s game. He was a very dominant player in his prime and he owned Shaq.
3. BULK UP
International Games and the NBA are not for cry babies. It’s a man’s game with a warrior attitude. Euroleague for example is like a warzone. Very physical. That’s why you have to be durable. Jabbar and Karl Malone are both durable specimens. Jabbar retired from basketball at 38 and he was still dominant center at that time.
4. WILL TO WIN
Manny Pacquaio always win because he trust himself and he brings his A game everytime he fights. That’s he is a beloved one to us Filipinos. His will to win carries him through even in the most trying times of his career. A lot of players with great expectations end up a dud because they don’t have the will to win.
5. HAVE FUN
Last but not the least, Be heartily happy always. don’t pretend.
yabang mo pablo,,,kung makapagsalita ka parang magaling ka mgbasketball ah..cguro tatapakan ka lng ni fajardo
waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah !! go kuya june mar 🙂