WITH the major leap in June Mar Fajardo's game, fellow big man Asi Taulava believes an MVP trophy is within the 6-10 Cebuano's grasp over the next few years.
For so long one of the most dominant big men in the PBA, Taulava conceded Petron sophomore Fajardo was one of the toughest local players he had played against since he entered the league in 1999.
“Yeah, June Mar is tough. He has the skills, he keeps on improving and he is always hungry to learn new things … that’s good for him and that’s good for Philippine basketball,” said Taulava after going up against Fajardo for the first time in a PBA game on Wednesday night.
“June Mar is a very humble guy. You never see him do things unnecessary. He’s so focused on improving his craft, and I can see him go places in the years to come … he should however challenge himself to stay focused,” added the 2003 league MVP.
The 40-year-old Air21 center more than held his own against Fajardo as they finally crossed paths after Taulava spent a season in the ABL, scoring 18 points - two more than the Petron sophomore. Both big men had 16 rebounds.
Fajardo, however, had the last laugh as Petron escaped with a 90-88 win.
Taulava walked away from the match convinced that Fajardo is bound to become the league's Most Valuable Player - if not this season then in the next few years.
“The guy is very talented. He just have to work even harder. June Mar is big and he plays hard … who knows in the next year, two or three … he can grab it (MVP). I’d be happy,” Taulava said.
Still, the Express slotman has vowed to be around to challenge Fajardo and the league's young turks.
“As long as I can still dribble a ball and my body is still not feeling any aches and pains, I will always be here in front of them,” he said.
And for his advice to Fajardo and the young pool of players, he said: “Continue working hard, don’t take it easy … there will always be somebody new coming in to take our places.
“As long as you keep working hard, I don’t see any reason why you won’t succeed. Everything is earned and not given. Just be you, June Mar, just go out there and play. I just hope you learn from our (veterans) experience before of being lazy in the past,” he said.
“Just play hard and help your team win … and winning the MVP and other accolades can be easy.”