by Waylon Galvez
Manila, Philippines – Petron Blaze’s 6-foot-10 center June Mar Fajardo was in uniform in a ‘Christmas Day’ game when the Boosters battled the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings. He even joined the team’s warm-up, pulling up a few jump shots prior to the game.
However, the way Fajardo moved that night, a limp was obvious on his every move – or to put it straight, in every walk – as he cannot run to protect a right knee injury (MCL) that forced him to miss a crucial game versus the Ginebra.
The two teams entered the game tied at 7-1, but when the smoke cleared, the Kings were on top with an 8-1 card after a 97-83 win while the Boosters fell to solo second place at 7-2, sustaining their second straight defeat in five days after a perfect 7-0 start.
Fajardo can only watch as he helplessly sat on the Boosters’ bench, knowing he could have made a difference had he not suffer the injury when he accidentally stepped on teammate Doug Kramer’s foot during the team’s practice session last Monday.
The Petron-Ginebra game would have also pitted Fajardo against his former Cebu archrival Greg Slaughter, the Kings’ 7-foot rookie. Nevertheless, he is impressed with the way Slaughter moved to the basket, using his height to dominate the shaded lane.
“Maganda ang nilalaro niya, saka dominante din siya eh,” said Fajardo, who hopes to return to action January 8 when Petron meets Barako Bull. “May mga moves s’ya na maganda, may (outside) touch siya, may hook shot niya.”
Slaughter scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 35 minutes of action.
It wasn’t just Slaughter who caught Fajardo’s attention, though, as Ginebra forward and Gilas Pilipinas teammate Japeth Aguilar was impressive in the game, collecting a game-high 25 points and pulled down 11 rebounds in 36 minutes of play.
“Malaking tulong ni Japeth. Kapag nakalusot ka kay Greg, may Japeth pa,” said Fajardo as Aguilar and Slaughter each had two of Ginebra’s five shot blocks.
Fajardo, who averages 15.5 points, a league-leading 17.2 rebounds and second-best 3 shot blocks per game, is looking forward to Petron’s next game versus Ginebra. But since the two teams are in the same group, they will face-off just once in the elimination.
That ‘next game’ can only happen in the playoffs – if ever.