June Mar Fajardo still a 'conundrum' for Cone ahead of Ginebra-SMB showdown
“From a coaching stand point, there’s not a tougher conundrum than June Mar Fajardo,” says Ginebra coach Tim Cone. Jaime Campos

TIM Cone minced no words on why teams, Barangay Ginebra included, always have a hard time dealing with two-time all-Filipino champion San Miguel Beer.

It goes by the name of June Mar Fajardo.

And as in the past, the 6-foot-11, three-time MVP is again poised to give Cone and the Kings a lot of trouble when they battle the Beermen on Sunday in the PBA Philippine Cup.

“From a coaching stand point, there’s not a tougher conundrum than June Mar Fajardo,” admitted Cone, whose team will be having the reigning champions for its first assignment in the new year.

“Just trying to figure out what to do against him, that perplexed all of us coaches.”

Cone considers the San Miguel game as imperative to the campaign of the Kings (3-3) that the team immediately went to practice a day after New Year to begin preparing for the defending champions.

The marquee match-up will be the first between the two celebrated ballclubs since the Kings stunned the fancied Beermen in the semifinals of last season’s Governors Cup.

Ginebra pullemed San Miguel, 117-92, in the deciding Game Five, where the usually dominant Fajardo was held to just seven points – all from the foul line – as import Justine Brownlee and guards LA Tenorio and Sol Mercado alternated in doubling him at the low block. The University of Cebu alumnus averaged 18 points and 17 rebounds in the best-of-five series.

Fajardo however, is back to his old self, emerging as the top contender again for the Best Player of the conference plum midway into the season-opening conference. He currently holds a league-leading 44.2 statistical points built behind averages of 20.2 points and 17.2 rebounds, both league highs.

And the numbers are staggering considering Fajardo admitted he’s deferring more to his teammates this conference, which the Beermen currently lead with a 5-1 record.

That certainly is not lost on Cone.

“To me, San Miguel is the hardest team to prepare for because of him (Fajardo) and the weapons around him,” said the owner of 19 championships in the league.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos