ROEL Gomez vividly remembers the first time June Mar Fajardo came under his wings: the Cebuano player stood around 6-6 then, skinny, with very little basketball experience.
Gomez recalled asking Fajardo to wake up at 4 each morning so they could start jogging and doing skills training.
"Nung dumating siya sa akin, skinny pa siya noon na mga 6-foot-6 ang height. Part ng training namin yung takbo araw-araw kaya kung makikita mo, bahagi na iyan ngayon ng laro niya," said Gomez, a former Alaska gunner during the Aces' dominant run in the nineties and the coach of University of Cebu since 2002.
That gangling player of a couple of years ago is now a 6-10 slotman with limitless potential. Fajardo has in fact been made the top pick overall in the last rookie draft by Petron Blaze, which expect the 23-year-old to become one of the most dominant big men in the pro league.
Fajardo didn't pick up the sport until he was in high school but his improvement has been phenomenal, which Gomez credits to his admirable attitude and "high basketball IQ."
"Maganda ang attitude ni June Mar," Gomez told Spin.ph. "Maganda kasi sa kanya, mataas ang basketball IQ niya."
Gomez said he concentrated on teaching Fajardo the fundamentals during his early years with the Webmasters. "Lagi ko kasing sinasabi sa kanya na game of wit ang basketball. Since malaki naman siya, importante lang na gamitin niya yung size niya. Confidence yung na-gain niya dahil dun," said Gomez.
Fajardo's final two years with the Webmasters saw him blossom into the most dominant in the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc.(Cesafi) while leading the school to back-to-back titles from 2010, in the process ending the long reign of the University of Visayas Lancers.
"Yung huling taon na niya talaga lumabas yung galing niya. noted Gomez. "Pero lagi ko siya ng kinekuwentuhan ng naging experience ko sa PBA. Importante ang hard work at discipline."
Being a hard worker and a fast learner, Fajardo can only get better from hereon, says Gomez.