OLSEN Racela and his assistant Rajko Toroman found the need to temper the high expectations on big man June Mar Fajardo at a time when the top rookie pick overall is being labelled, justly or unjustly, as the future of Philippine basketball even before he could play his first game in the PBA.
Racela came away impressed on Thursday after witnessing Fajardo's first competitive game with the Petron Boosters, where the 6-9 giant from Cebu came away with 17 points against Rain or Shine and showed the mobility, strength and deft touch from the perimeter that made him an easy choice as No. 1 pick in the last draft.
“Well, kahit may mga lapses si June Mar, nakita niyo naman yung kaya niyang gawin. He’s more mobile, has a very good touch from the perimeter, and can defend,” Racela told Spin.ph.
Racela, however, was quick to point out that for all his talent, his prized recruit is far from being a finished product and has a lot of things he needs to improve on like his defense and rebounding.
“Marami na rin naman kasing scorers ang team, and we always tell him to make sure he covers the paint. Kasi kapag lumabas si Arwind (Santos), at di siya agad bumalik sa depensa, mabubutasan kami,” said Racela.
Even former Smart Gilas coach Toroman said expectations on Fajardo should be tempered and the big man should be given enough time to grow as he adjusts to the PBA style of play.
“We have to understand that he is coming from the ABL (Asean Basketball League) where he doesn’t get a lot of playing minutes. He even comes off the bench. So we just have to be patient with him," the Serb said.
"But for his first game at least in the tune-up game, his performance is okay.”
Also getting passing marks from the Petron coaches was No. 3 pick overall Alex Mallari, the 6-3 long-limbed Fil-American who finished the game with 13 points, including eight in the final period where he helped the Boosters stage a rally before losing 101-98, to Rain or Shine.
“Si Alex, he’s a guy who is full of potential. He can play multiple positions and I believe he’ll help the team a lot this season,” added the new Petron coach.
The Boosters played without Marcio Lassiter, Dorian Pena and Chris Lutz and struggled to mesh their games together during the preseason match which Racela said was understandable as the rejigged team goes through a 'getting-to-know-you stage.'
“Nangangapa pa rin karamihan. We had a lot of turnovers. I feel we need a lot more tune-up games like this para mas masanay na sila sa ginagawa namin,” Racela said.
The Boosters next face the Alaska Aces in another preseason game on Friday at the Reyes gym in Mandaluyong City.