WITH June Mar Fajardo's confidence sky-high following an impressive rookie year in the PBA, a ghost from the past is expected to haunt him once the league kicks off its 39th season on November 17.
The arrival of big man Greg Slaughter will definitely rekindle the rivalry between the two giants who waged war against each other in the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) back in their college days.
Slaughter is projected to go as the year’s top overall pick by Barangay Ginebra in Sunday’s Rookie Draft, the same way Fajardo ended up as last year’s No. 1 selection by Petron.
Asked about the impending entry of his longtime rival, Fajardo said he welcomed the challenge of battling Slaughter again at a higher level.
“Dagdag challenge sa akin `yun lalo na makakalaro ko uli siya (Slaughter),” said the 24-year-old pride of Pinamungajan, Cebu.
The 6-foot-10 Fajardo, who showed a glimpse of his potential during the recent Governors Cup Finals, starred for University of Cebu and rivaled Slaughter, who served as the main frontcourt man of the University of the Visayas Green Lancers.
In the only time the two big men met in the Cesafi Finals in 2009, Slaughter got the better of Fajardo as the Lancers won the title over the Webmasters in four games.
The two ended up being named as co-Most Valuable Players of the season.
Slaughter actually enjoyed more successful college career over Fajardo in Cebu, having been part of three Cesafi championship team at UV from 2007-2009, although he had a lot of help when UV won the title in 2007 behind former pro Ariel Mepana and Jayford Rodriguez, according to Cebu Daily News reporter and Spin.ph contributor Jonas Panerio.
He later transferred to Ateneo and won two UAAP men’s championship with the Blue Eagles.
With Slaughter plying his trade in Manila, Fajardo became the undisputed big man in Cebu, winning back-to-back Cesafi titles in 2010 and 11, while being adjudged as MVP on both occasions.
Fajardo, a Mythical Second Team member in just his rookie year as a pro, then played for San Miguel in the Asean Basketball League (ABL) before finally bringing his act to the PBA.
Now, the two giants cross path again.
“Wala naman sa akin `yun. Laro lang naman tayo,” said the Petron center in trying to play down his rivalry with the former member of the Gilas cadet national pool.
“Kahit sino pa ang kalaban ko, si Slaughter man yan o hindi, maglalaro lang ako.”