JUNE Mar Fajardo, the shy Cebuano who looked bound for stardom the moment he stepped into the PBA floor, is set to fulfill his date with destiny on Saturday in the league's annual Leo Awards.
San Miguel Beer's 6-10 center is the top favorite to win the yearend MVP honor in just his second season when the league fetes its biggest individual achievers in ceremonies preceding Game Three of the PBA Governors Cup Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Fajardo has staked his claim to the top individual honor from the first conference of the season where he won the 'Best Player' award while showcasing skills and a shooting touch rarely seen from a homegrown big man.
If pundits are right, the 24-year-old sophomore from Pinamungahan, Cebu will - curiously enough - become just the first PBA MVP from the basketball-mad province which has bred several of the league's biggest heroes.
Fajardo is also set to become just the second player after Ginebra's Mark Caguioa to win the league's highest individual honor without his team entering any of the three conference finals.
That unflattering footnote, however, has cast the only remaining doubt to Fajardo's stake to the award.
Also, what seemed like a lock for Fajardo was suddenly no longer as certain after the San Miguel center lost out to Talk 'N Text's Ranidel de Ocampo in the balloting for the Best Player of the Conference award in the Governors Cup just last Thursday.
Now it is only Air21's ageless slotman Asi Taulava, De Ocampo, and his Talk 'N Text teammate Jayson Castro who stand in the way of Fajardo in his quest for the MVP honor.
As it is, Fajardo still leads the MVP statistical race with his 37.2 points - Taulava is the closest to him at 31.6. But as the Governors Cup Best Player tally has shown, no statistical lead is too big not to overhauled by a surge of votes from the media, players, and PBA officials.
Under league, 40 percent of the MVP tally comes from statistical points, with 30 percent from media votes, 25 percent from players' votes, and five percent from a vote from the Commissioner's Office.
Posing another danger is the fact that Fajardo and San Miguel have long been eliminated by the time the voting for the yearend awards started.
That is the same scenario in the Rookie of the Year race, where Ginebra's Greg Slaughter dominated the statistical race only to see main rival Ian Sangalang make a big impression on the voters with his fine play for grand slam-seeking San Mig late in the season.
The top pick overall of the draft holds a sizeable advantage in the statistical points (30.7 SPs) against both Ian Sangalang (19.3) and Raymond Almazan (19.2) of Rain or Shine.
Also to be given out are the Most Improved Player award, where Fajardo is also in nominated along with Meralco’s Cliff Hodge and Air21’s Joseph Yeo, spots to the All-Defensive Team, and the Sportsmanship Award.