TWO major universities down south are proud to have contributed a pair of big men to the 17-man Gilas Pilipinas pool for August's Fiba-Asia Men's Basketball Championship.
Former University of the Visayas star center Greg Slaughter and ex-rival June Mar Fajardo of University of Cebu were both tapped on Thursday by coach Chot Reyes to be part of his national squad.
Slaughter and Fajardo both played their college ball in the province, although Slaughter later suited up for two years with Ateneo and became part of two Blue Eagles champion sides.
Gerald Anthony Gullas, UV team manager and the school’s assistant vice-president for finance and administration, recalled the great memories of the amiable 7-foot Slaughter during his time with the Green Lancers.
He said the school is definitely behind Slaughter all the way in this new endeavor.
“Greg (Slaughter) is very close to us. And even though he was an (Ateneo) Blue Eagle, he will always be a Lancer in our hearts,” said Gullas in a statement.
“As for representing the country with the Gilas, he will always have our full support.”
Slaughter won three championships with UV in the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi), and is part of the cadet training pool of Gilas.
UC team manager Atty. Baldomero Estenzo for his part, said the selection of the 6-foot-10 Fajardo as member of Gilas Pilipinas couldn’t have come at a perfect time.
“The time is just right. He (Fajardo) is ripe now (for the national team), and I’m very happy that he was picked. He will learn from this experience and become a much-better basketball player,” said Estenzo, one of the men credited for helping shape the career of the once gangly center from Pinamungahan, Cebu.
The UC official also revealed Fajardo had once been courted to become part of the Smart Gilas-Pilipinas of former coach Rajko Toroman, but was prevailed upon by him and other school executives from taking the offer since they were apprehensive about his readiness to play at such high level of basketball.
Likewise, Estenzo wanted Fajardo to tend to his studies first in UC at the time, a stay which he later translated to two Cesafi championships for the school.
Following his stint with the Webmasters, Fajardo played for the San Miguel Beermen in the Asean Basketball League, before being made the No. 1 overall pick by Petron in last year’s PBA Draft.
Fajardo and Slaughter are just two of the four players in Gilas Pilipinas who have Cebuano lineage, the others being Kelly Williams of Talk `N Text and Alaska’s Sonny Thoss.