MOST basketball fans know the story of how PBA legend Mon Fernandez took June Mar Fajardo under his wings during his early years at the University of Cebu, taught him a couple of moves, led him to the right path.
"Siguro naka-fifteen to 20 sessions kami," Fernandez says now of Fajardo, who now has six MVP awards in the PBA to his mentor's four.
The story most of us don't know - including the SPIN.ph staff, until Fernandez spit it out casually during his Zoom In appearance on Thursday - was that another Cebuano giant almost trained under the watchful eyes of El Presidente.
His name? Greg Slaughter.
"Noong dumating si Slaughter sa Cebu, same thing with June Mar, ang ginawa ni Atty. [Baldomero] Estenzo, tinawag nya ako," Fernandez says of the longtime manager of University of Cebu's basketball program, who is also a dear friend.
"[Sabi nya], 'Mon, meron akong player galing Germany or German yung tatay.' Yung mother kasi ni Slaughter, studied in University of Cebu. So 'nung nalaman n'yang dumating, sa kanya kaagad nagpunta yung nanay."
On Estenzo's request, Fernandez says he was there to take a look at Slaughter the first time he showed up for practice.
"First practice day ni Slaughter sa YMCA, ininvite n'ya ako, pinatingnan sa akin. They were practicing and all that, they were warming up and playing a little bit, he was sluggish at that time noong umpisa," the PBA great recalls.
However, any collaboration between Fernandez and Slaughter never happened because the latter moved to UC's rival University of Visayas.
"After a week, lumipat na sa University of Visayas," Fernandez says.
Asked if he would've had trained Slaughter had he stayed, Fernandez says, "Sigurado 'yon because laging pinapagawa sa atin ni Atty. Estenzo yon eh. Humihingi sya ng tulong, pinapa-train n'ya sa atin ang mga centers n'ya."
There's no way of knowing how a collaboration would've turned out, but Slaughter didn't do badly without it. He went on to win three Cesafi championships and two MVP awards before moving to Ateneo, where he won two more UAAP titles.
Asked to share his early impression of Fajardo and Slaughter, Fernandez says, "Yung mobility at agility nila inside the court definitely, malaki ang diperensya."
"Nakakatakbo, he can go up and down the court as quick as the other guys, makikita mo naman na hindi flat-footed," he says of Fajardo.
"May kabagalan ng konti," he says. "Alam ko na na lamang talaga si June Mar."
Fernandez, who retired in 1994 with 19 championships won and statistical records that stand to this day, said if there was one player who he expected to crowd Fajardo for league dominance, it was Slaughter.
"I was expecting na si Greg ang makakadikit ni June Mar as far as statistical points sa MVP race ba, sya lang ang nakikita kong tumapat kay June Mar," he says, "pero hindi naman nangyari."
Will it ever happen?
"It's really up to him how he disciplines himself, how he practices," Fernandez says.