THE event: 26th Summer Universiade. The place: Shenzhen, China. The date: August, 2011.
Few people would have guessed that they were looking at history when this 6-10 center from University of Cebu carried the Philippine flag during the parade of nations in the 26th World University Games, also known as the Summer Universiade.
If someone had told them they were looking at the man who would become the most dominant figure in Philippine basketball, they would have laughed.
In another time, another place, he would have been considered a major attraction in a circus.
But June Mar Fajardo -- bless his heart --is now M-V-P in the PBA for five straight years.
He is also now widely-regarded as the greatest player in Asia's first play-for-pay league since coming to Manila in 2012.
Ramon Fernandez, “El Presidente” himself, was elegant throughout his 19-year PBA career that brought him four MVP awards in 1982, 1984, 1986 and 1988.
Alvin Patrimonio, the “Captain”, was nearly as unstoppable in bagging four MVP awards in 1991, 1993, 1994 and 1997 in a coloful 16- year career with only one team, Purefoods.
On Sunday, Fajardo surpassed both Fernandez and Patrimonio by winning a record fifth straight MVP award.
The 80s belonged to “El Presidente” and the 90s to the “Captain.”
Clearly, the 2000s is "Kraken time.
In a game where height is might, the 6-10 San Miguel Beer center is constantly felt compelled to do more.
When healthy, he dominated the game in the way few have in the 43 years of the league. He can get the most points, the most rebounds and the most blocked shots.
He can really be as unstoppable as tomorrow.
" Hindi ko ma-explain yung nararamdaman ko ngayon kasi marami nangarap na makakuha rin ng award na ito tapos sa dinami-daming player na magaling sa PBA, ako yung napiling maging MVP,” said Fajardo when he received the first of his five MVP awards.
And while Fajardo attributed his success to hard work and dedication in everything he does, he is also the first to admit the road to success was not easy.
-- In 2014, Fajardo achieved the feat by posting averages of 16.8 points, 14.2 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.4 assists in 37 games for the entire 2013-2014 season and beating Jayson Castro (Talk N Text), Ranidel de Ocampo (Talk N Text) and Asi Taulava (Air 21) with 2614 statistical points.
-- In 2015, Fajardo averaged 17.4 points, 12.9 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.3 assists in 54 fames to beat Castro and Greg Slaughter of Barangay Ginebra for the MVP award.
-- in 2016, he averaged a career-best 19.7 points, 12.2 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.3 assists per game in 52 games and beat Castro, Terrence Romeo, Calvin Abueva, and Stanley Pringle with 1,500 statistical points for the award.
-- In 2017, he averaged 17.2 points, 11.4 tebounds, 1.9 blocks and 1.6 assists in 56 games and bested San Miguel teammates Chris Ross and Alex Cabagnot with 2,886 points.
-- And in 2018, Fajardo finished with an average of 20.6 points, 12.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks and garnered 2,436 points to beat Stanley Pringle of NorthPort Batang Pier for the award.
Can he make it sixth straight MVP award this year?
Fernandez certainly thinks so.
“ I think he will dominate the league for atleast 10 more years, " Fernandez, who once taught Fajardo in their home province in Cebu, said
But Fernandez, who captured 19 PBA championships, said Fajardo should maintain the proper playing weight and not gain additional pounds.
“Another area that he (Fajardo) could still get better is his defense,” explained Fernandez.
Former PBA MVP Renato Agustin had the same observation.
“Even before, I know malalagpasan niya si Mon sa dami ng MVP awards,” said Agustin, who played with Fernandez with San Miguel in the 90s.
“Halos pareho sila.Dati si Mon ‘yung pinupuntahan namin lagi. Marunong siyang mag-decoy and pumasa just like June Mar. Nag-mature na din ngayon si June Mar. Pag dino-double siya, marunong na pumasa,” added Agustin.
It would be interesting to watch how Fajardo would perform in the PBA Season 44, which formally started last Sunday at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
Fajardo and San Miguel will open their title-retention campaign against Columbia Dyip on Friday, Jan. 18 at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.
The Dyip will be led by No. 1 overall pick and one-time NCAA MVP CJ Perez and former UST center Jeepy Faundo.
Then comes the heavyweightbattle a gainst Barangay Ginebra and Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar on Sunday, Jan. 20 atthe Araneta Colisuem.
Can’t wait to see the games.
NOTES -- Happy birthday to Marcelo de Guzman, who will celebrate on Wednesday, Jan. 16. De Guzman was one of three Filipinos chosen by the Philippine Amateur Athletic Federation (PAFF) as representatives to the International Sports Youth Assemblage of the XI Winter Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan last Jan. 29-Feb. 12, 1972. He was also one of the first 12 recipients of the E. Rodriguez Jr. High School (ERJHS) Alumni Sports Club Hall of Fame Awards last March 5, 2016.
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