JUNE Mar Fajardo's stats line at the end of his first game in the PBA reads like this: nine points, 12 rebounds, two blocks, a small cut on his left eyebrow, and countless aches all over his body.
Walking forlornly as he emerged from Petron’s dugout after an 86-102 defeat to Rain or Shine on Wednesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, Fajardo admitted getting frustrated by the physical play of the Elasto Painters, especially big men Beau Belga, JR Quinahan and Jervy Cruz.
“Di ko ine-expect na ganito ka physical, malaki talaga ang pagkakaiba,” Fajardo told Spin.ph, pointing to a bandage on his left eyebrow owing to a cut he suffered during a skirmish with Ryan Arana midway through the final period.
With the 6-6 Belga and the 6-5 Quinahan hitting three three-pointers each and Arana, Cruz and just about every player in a Rain or Shine uniform putting a body on the rookie at every opportunity, the Elasto Painters proved a tough proposition for the 6-10 Cebuano.
Fajardo was either late going out to cover Belga and Quinahan in the perimeter - and slow to scramble back inside the shaded lane to stop drives by the likes of Jeff Chan, Gabe Norwood, and Jireh Ibanes.
“Sa depensa, nahirapan ako dahil ang dami nilang shooters, pati big man tumitira. Okay lang daw na habulin dahil may magro-rotate naman, though medyo nahuhuli lang,” said the former University of Cebu star.
Petron’s own rookie coach Olsen Racela said: “Nahirapan siya (Fajardo) kasi yung malalaki ng Rain or Shine eh nilalabas siya because they shoot. That’s not his comfort zone (Fajardo defending the perimeter). Tapos nagulo defense namin kapag lumalabas si June Mar."
The constant banging also clearly ruffled Fajardo, who ended up flubbing several easy undergoal stabs. In 38 minutes on the floor, the rookie went 2-of-7 from the field and 5-of-11 from the foul line.
Petron coaching consultant Rajko Toroman, however, cautioned against expecting Fajardo to turn into a super center overnight.
"June Mar never really played real basketball all his life. He didn't play a lot in ABL (Asean Basketball League). You see him missing layups. So it's a learning process for him," said the former national coach.
"Maybe in one or two years, he'll dominate. But you don't expect him to explode soon."