FOR retired PBA player Bonel Balingit, fellow Cebuanos June Mar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter should be playing at the same level now.
But that's not the case right now, the former RFM slotman rued.
“Kilala ko yang dalawa na yan. Kasi nung nag-uumpisa sila sa Cebu, pinapanood ko na sila. Silang dalawa lang talaga nun ang naglalaban,” Balingit said when SPIN.ph caught up with him in a pick-up game for electrical engineers at Koten Gym in Pasay City.
Balingit recalled that during that time, it was Slaughter who was dominating Fajardo, even winning the Cesafi title for the University of the Visayas Green Lancers in 2009 over Fajardo and the University of Cebu Webmasters.
The Fajardo-led Webmasters went on to win two Cesafi championships after Slaughter's departure for Ateneo, where he won two more championships in the UAAP at the end of a fivepeat run by the Blue Eagles.
“Nung nag-uumpisa sila sa Cebu, mas magaling pa nga si Slaughter e,” recalled Balingit.
While Slaughter made a name for himself in the Big City, the 6-10 Fajardo remained out of the radar of scouts and was only known to underground basketball fans in different online forums during the infancy years of social media.
Balingit said he had high expectations for Slaughter, saying he didn't expect Fajardo to have five league MVP awards at this time and Slaughter none.
“Akala ko nga pagdating nila sa PBA, patas na patas ang match-up nila,” he said. “Nag umpisa sila ni June Mar, lamang pa siya, pagdating sa pro ang layo ng iniwan."
"Kung ako si Slaughter, dapat maging challenge yun. Bakit di mo gamitin yung laki mo sa court, may advantage ka,” added the former RFM slotman, who had a nine-year career in the PBA that included stops at Purefoods and Tanduay.
Though there is now a huge gap between the two giants, Balingit believes it is not too late for the 31-year old Slaughter to catch up.
“Hindi pa huli, trabahuhin mo lang yan. Determination, focus at gawin mong hamon yan sa yo.”
“Yung status ni June Mar ngayon ikumpara mo sa 'yo, dapat yun ang target mo at inspiration, lagi mo itanong sa isip mo, 'Kaya ni June Mar, bakit hindi ko kayang gawin?' Height is might at merun ka nun,” added Balingit.
As for injuries that set back Slaughter's career in recent years, Balingit, 51, said: “Wag ka matakot sa injury mo dati, palakasin mo lang para hindi mabalik. Kaya mo yan eh. Kaya nga ng maliit pano pa yung malaki. Step up ka, naiiwanan ka na.”
“Sayang ang laki, bai. Gamitin mo!”
Asked about some Ginebra fans demanding a trade for Slaughter, Balingit said: “Siguro hindi maiwasan, frustrated na rin yung mga fans. Hindi pwedeng hindi ka magsipag dyan, nasa team ka, inaasahan ka, dapat ipakita mo.”
Bashers on social media have compared Slaughter to another former Ginebra slotman in EJ Feihl, but the latter insisted Slaughter was better than him.
“Mas magaling sa kin 'yun. May galaw yun, bata pa ang lakas. Nakikita ko yung first year nya sa Ginebra malakas eh. Na ACL lang kasi," said Feihl.
Feihl also has no doubts that Slaughter can hit new heights once fully fit.
“Mas kailangan siya ng Ginebra. Mabalik lang kumpyansa nya at maalis takot sa injury, malaking bagay yan kasi andun na si Japeth (Aguilar) eh,” said the 7-foot-2 center.