TOP rookie pick June Mar Fajardo played his finest game as a pro on Thursday night.
It also turned out to be his last for the conference.
On Thursday night, the 6-9 Fajardo threw his weight around and finally performed like the player everyone thought he would be when Petron made him the No. 1 selection overall in the draft, banging in 22 points and plucking down 15 rebounds against San Mig Coffee at the Big Dome.
But he was a picture of frustration later, after his monster game couldn't save the Boosters from becoming one of the first teams to bid goodbye in the PBA Philippine Cup following the 87-92 overtime loss.
“Masakit ito (talo), di ko in-expect na mag-end up ng ganito ang first conference ko," the former University of Cebu star told Spin.ph as he made his way out of the Big Dome.
However, a lot of people at Petron, especially coach Olsen Racela, were heartened to see the rookie give a good account of himself in his first taste of PBA playoff basketball and impose his presence inside the paint against a San Mig team blessed with a tall and deep frontline.
“Pati ako nagulat din (referring to Fajardo’s game). Pero wala rin kasi kaming nakuha kay Dorian (Pena), It’s good that maganda nilaro ni June Mar," said Racela. "Magandang sign 'yan for the second conference."
Racela, though, was the first to realize that Fajardo's upward curve has been once again stalled by an unfortunate event. He previously played a big game against this same San Mig team in the elims, only to suffer a groin injury that sidelined him for over a month.
"Nakakapang-hinayang lang kasi nung previous career-game niya (against San Mig), na-injured siya. Ngayon naman, bakasyon na kami,” said Racela.
"Pero nakita mo naman kung ano ang kaya niyang gawin," he added.
Fajardo said his first playoff game as a pro showed him what he needs to improve on as far as his game is concerned, confident that he can return an even better player for the Commissioner's Cup.
"Nahirapan din ako sa depensa ng San Mig, pero ngayon kailangan ko pa i-work out yung upper (body) ko, saka 'yung lower para di ako matulak,” said the big man, who averaged 10.62 points, nine rebounds and 1.38 blocks in 25.88 minutes of play in his debut conference.
"Learning (experience) lang talaga ito … Hopefully mas lumakas sana sa second conference.”