Ricardo Ratliffe praises June Mar Fajardo, says SMB big man better than most imports in Korea
Star import Ricardo Ratliffe looks forward to another showdown with SMB main man June MAr Fajardo. Jerome Ascano

RICARDO Ratliffe has been playing around Asia for quite some time now. And for the Star Hotshots import, he has for a Filipino as the best player in the region.

Ratliffe declared San Miguel big man June Mar Fajardo as the best Asian player he ever encountered, who he said does everything on the court that the three-time PBA MVP plays ‘like an import.’

The 28-year-old American gave Fajardo the compliment after the Beermen eliminated the Hotshots in the battle for a finals berth in the mid-season Commissioner’s Cup Friday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.

“He’s definitely the best player I’ve ever played in Asia. I just got a lot of respect for him,” said Ratliffe of the 6-foot-10 center from Pinamungahan, Cebu, who has also played against TnT Katropa's Jayson Castro, named two-time best point guard in Asia by FIBA.

A long-time player in the Korean Basketball League (KBL), where he was the first American college player to be selected in the draft, Ratliffe even added ‘The Kraken’ could pass off as an import in the KBL.

“I think he’s better against most of the imports in Korea,” said the Star import after the team’s 109-102 loss in Game Four of the semis against the Beermen.

For someone who has won a championship in the KBL and an MVP trophy in the Jones Cup to boot, that indeed, was a sure-fire compliment for a young player who just a season ago, became the first one to win three straight MVP awards in Asia’s first ever play-for-pay league.

Ratliffe was short of saying Fajardo being the total package.

“He’s a great talent, a huge individual, he’s very mobile for his size, that’s what I really respect about him,” he pointed out.

“He’s not just a big lazy guy. He can move, he can run over the court, he’s athletic, he can dunk the ball, he rebounds, he does everything, he shoots the jump shot, so I look forward to going up against him.”

Ratliffe, who averaged 32.7 points and 23.0 rebounds battling Fajardo and counterpart Charles Rhodes down low in the Hotshots’ semifinals series against the Beermen, had so much respect for the San Miguel big man, the two would usually bumped-fists shortly after every timeout.

“That’s just a mutual respect. I think he respects me and I respect him,” he said of their on-court ritual despite belonging on the opposite sides. “It’s nothing but a friendly conversation. He welcomed me back to the PBA, tell me how I have a great season and stuff like that.”

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The 6-foot-8 native of Hampton, Virginia, holds Fajardo in high esteem that he said there’s no single time to play complacent against the San Miguel star.

“I always have to bring my A-game when I go up against him,” said Ratliffe, who’s been so good he’s being considered by the Korean national team to be its next naturalized player.

The Star import expects to see more of Fajardo as he’s expected to comeback for another tour of duty with the Hotshots next season.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos