THE man who picked June Mar Fajardo as the top overall selection in the 2012 PBA draft believes no one else can duplicate or even surpass the feat of the San Miguel Beer star of winning four straight MVPs.
Olsen Racela believes the 6-foot-11 Fajardo has already etched his name in the rich history of Asia’s first ever play-for-pay league for being the only player to win its highest individual honor for four consecutive times.
Not even scoring machine Terrence Romeo, Asia’s two-time best point guard Jayson Castro, Ginebra’s very own Greg Slaugter, nor the highly-touted rookie pair of Christian Standhardinger and Kiefer Ravena.
“Mahihirapan, kasi alam mo naman sa PBA, it’s a combination of a lot of things, talent at mapasama ka sa team na always a contender,” said Racela, who was the one at the helm of the Beermen when Fajardo made himself available in the rookie draft.
“And to do that for four straight years, parang mahihirapan siguro,” added the former PBA great, who’s now one of coach Tim Cone’s assistants at Ginebra. “To win a championship more than four, I’m sure may dadating. Pero four straight (MVPs), I doubt kung may makakagawa.”
In the 42-year history of the PBA, no other player than Fajardo has emerged MVP of the season four straight years. The closest to have done the feat was William ‘Bogs’ Adornado and Danny Ildefonso, who won the trophy in back-to-back fashion in 1975 and 1976, and 2000 and 2001, respectively.
Racela acknowledged Fajardo’s potential and skills the first time he laid an eye on the Cebuano giant.
But more than that, he believes the San Miguel big man’s work ethic sets him apart from the rest of the field. And that he had Ildefonso for his mentor when he was just starting as a rookie further molded him to the great player that he is today.
“It’s his work ethic. Nakita ko yun sa kanya when he practices, partly because maganda yung mentor niya si Danny I,” Racela said about his former San Miguel teammate.
"Si Danny I grabe ang work ethic. After practices grabe magbabad. And I know hanggang ngayon ganun pa rin si June Mar. Pag ganun ang work ethic mo, of course magbubunga yan. Eto na yung bunga ng kanyang paghihirap,” he added.
Racela recalled not having any second thoughts on who he will take at no. 1 five years ago in a draft that featured the likes of Calvin Abueva, Cliff Hodge, Aldrech Ramos, Alex Mallari, Vic Manuel, Chris Tiu, Chris Ellis, Dave Marcelo, among others.
“Without a doubt,” he said of the only time he ever get to attend a draft proceedings as head coach. “It’s a combination of a lot of things, yung height niya, yung skills level niya, and hindi mo basta-basta nakikita yun in any draft,” said Racela, 47.
“It just come, hindi naman in a blue moon, kasi si Greg isa na yun,” he said. “But you cannot pass up that kind of combination, skills, hard work, and height.”
It was just too bad, Racela didn’t get to coach Fajardo long enough as his coaching stint with the Beermen was short lived. A season after, the retired nine-time champion would transfer to Star Hotshots and join Cone’s coaching staff.
He has no regrets, of course.
“Ganyan naman talaga, hindi mo masabi sa PBA,” said Racela, a six-time All-Star and twice member of the Mythical first team. “I would have loved to coach him for a long time, but it is what it is.”
Although they now belong to rival teams, Racela honestly said he’s very proud of how far Fajardo has come a long way.
“I’m happy for him kasi history yan, four straight MVP. And it couldn't have happened to a very nice guy like June Mar,” he stressed. “Napakabait na tao, he’s not just a very good basketball player, but off the court, napaka-humble at napakabait.”
Indeed, God exalts those who humble themselves.