IT was a totally different atmosphere for June Mar Fajardo playing his first game as a PBA sophomore.
The 6-10 gentle giant from Pinamungajan, Cebu said he has been so used to hearing the voice of teammate Danny Ildefonso from the bench during games that it was a strange feeling not having him around.
“Nami-miss ko talaga siya (Ildefonso). Wala nang nagsasabi sa akin ng mali ko at kung ano ang dapat kong gawing adjustment,” Fajardo said of a two-time league MVP which he has regarded as his mentor.
“Sad talaga ako,” he added.
Fajardo, however, made it clear he doesn't want to meddle in the controversy involving Ildefonso, the longtime San Miguel star who was dropped by the team last week.
[For full story, see Where is Danny I? Ildefonso's sudden exit from Petron shrouded in mystery]
“Ayoko ng manghimasok dun. Kasi sa kanilang ano na 'yun,” he said, groping for the right words to describe the situation.
A source told Spin.ph that management has already softened up on Ildefonso, who has been offered to handle the team's big men as part of the coaching staff. [See Source: Ildefonso offered coaching job as return to Petron lineup dims]
Fajardo refused to comment on the reported coaching offer.
“Ayoko magsalita tungkol dun. Kasi sila naman ang involved. Hindi ko naman alam ang sitwasyon,” he said.
Apparently, it wasn't only Fajardo who missed Ildefonso's presence. Several Petron fans showed up holding up Ildefonso jerseys and messages of support for the axed 15-year veteran.
Despite Ildefonso's absence, the Gilas mainstay was still a towering presence for Petron, contributing 15 points, 16 rebounds and four assists in a 97-87 win over the Globalport Batang Pier.
Still, Fajardo admitted there were times during the game when he had to fight the urge to look at the bench waiting for instructions from his mentor.
“Yun na nga lang ang ginawa ko kanina. Hindi na rin ako lumilingon sa bench kasi alam ko namang wala na siya run,” Fajardo said.
Asked if he expects to receive a call from Ildefonso after the game to get some new advice and tips, Fajardo nodded.
“Oo, alam ko nanood siya at alam ko tatawagan niya ko mamaya or ite-text,” he said before walking to the parking lot believing that he has made his idol proud.