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    Head of the class

    Jul 31, 2012
    Gentle giant June Mar Fajardo didn't take up basketball until he was in college, yet is expected to be the top pick in the next PBA rookie draft. Jerome Ascano

    CEBU CITY – The player, all 6-foot-10 of him, cuts an imposing presence in the town of Pinamungahan, a sleepy municipality southwest of this city which also happens to be the hometown of the PBA’s ‘next big thing’ – both literally and figuratively.

    June Mar Fajardo is currently spending time in his hometown for some well-deserved R & R while supervising the building of a new house, a gift he has long wanted to give to his parents.

    The gentle giant might as well enjoy all the calm and serenity for now. For in three weeks’ time, his life is expected to be turned upside down with his impending selection as the first pick overall of the 2012 PBA Draft on August 19 at the Robinsons Midtown mall.

    Petron Blaze owns the top pick in the draft, which it got in a trade with Air21 Express, and team officials have not been shy in expressing their admiration for Fajardo who played for the Boosters’ sister team in the ABL, the San Miguel Beermen, last season.

    For his part, Fajardo is just biding his time until the big day but says he will be ready for whatever comes his way.

    “Of course, the pressure will be there but I believe that given the time, I’ll be able to overcome it,” Fajardo told Spin.ph in his native dialect.

    When told of reports that SMC director of sports Noli Eala is bent on making him the top pick overall, Fajardo could not hide his excitement over the prospects of teaming up with his childhood idol, fellow Cebuano Dondon Hontiveros.

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    Incidentally, the two came from the same college, University of Cebu, and Fajardo said that the first local basketball player he ever knew and admired was Hontiveros, who donned the school’s colors in the late 90s.

    “I didn’t play basketball until I was in college already. The first practice I went to in UC, his jersey was displayed in the gym lobby and that’s how I got to know about him,” Fajardo said.

    The late-bloomer is excited to bang bodies with the likes of Asi Taulava and Ali Peek and is likewise looking forward to teaming up with another of his role models, veteran forward and former PBA MVP Danny Ildefonso.

    “I really only knew of players from San Miguel since Dondon played there,” added Fajardo.

    His time with the San Miguel Beermen also opened Fajardo’s eyes to the skills that he needs to develop in order to be an effective big man at the professional level.

    Unlike in the Cesafi where he was regularly defended by players several inches shorter than him, Fajardo stood toe-to-toe in the paint with ABL imports, some of whom were even taller than him and were definitely way stronger.

    “I learned that I really have to be physically fit in order to compete at this higher level,” said Fajardo.

    If Petron picks him, the giant is expected to join a loaded frontcourt that features the likes of Ildefonso, Dorian Pena, Rob Reyes, Jay Washington, Nonoy Baclao and Arwind Santos. Fajardo said he doesn’t mind competing for minutes and added that he’ll be ready when his name is called.

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    “It’s really okay. I’ll do whatever the coach tells me to do. I’ll do whatever it takes to help the team win,” said Fajardo. 

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    Gentle giant June Mar Fajardo didn't take up basketball until he was in college, yet is expected to be the top pick in the next PBA rookie draft. Jerome Ascano
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