JUNE Mar Fajardo expects no less than a highly physical match-up in his first face-off with former mentor Danny Ildefonso when Petron clashes with Meralco in the penultimate playdate of the PLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Cup on Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
At 6-10, Fajardo knows he’s got the height and the heft advantage over the two-time league MVP if they get the chance to take on each other in the 6-foot-5 Ildefonso's first game against former team Petron.
“Excited ako, pero walang personalan naman yun (match-up) eh. Saka malaki pa rin respeto ko sa kanya, mataas pa rin, basta laro lang. Eh, sana magkatapat kami,” Fajardo told Spin.ph of his acknowledged teacher and Meralco's mid-tournament free agent pick-up.
Fajardo has long admitted that much of the improvement he gained towards the tailend of last season till now he owes much to Ildefonso, who took the former top pick overall under his wings and patiently mentored him during and after practice.
But Fajardo was quick to say that Ildefonso remains a force to be reckoned with inside the paint.
“Natutulak niya (Ildefonso) ako kasi malakas din siya eh, pero gagawin ko lahat ng natutunan ko sa kanya. Gusto rin naming manalo eh. Bounce back kami,” added the 24-year-old pride of Pinamungahan, Cebu.
Fajardo said he’s still not 100 percent after missing three games after spraining the MCL in his right knee last December. But he has not been doing badly since his return, averaging 11.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks for the Boosters.
Fajardo said it is imperative that he should be able to 'seal' Ildefonso early in the paint so he can get the points inside - an important pointer he learned from the longtime Petron star himself.
“Seal lang lagi. Sabi niya, wala raw makakapigil sa akin pag ganun. Pero napipigilan pa rin eh,” he said in jest. “Pero, basta seal lang daw at isubo yung bola sa ring, yun daw yung effective kasi malaki daw ako.”
The Petron-Meralco match begins at 3:30 p.m.