Fajardo vs Slaughter: The next big rivalry
MANILA, Philippines — Greg Slaughter blocked June Mar Fajardo on a fadeaway try that drew a collective roar from the crowd.
Minutes later, Fajardo redeemed himself by taking the Ginebra rookie to school with a variety of moves in the paint.
The colossal matchup pitting San Miguel Beer’s prized center and the 7-foot Slaughter could easily become one of the biggest selling points for the Philippine Basketball Association in the years to come.
Fajardo’s pack-the-paint duel with Slaughter in the pro league first came during the recent PBA All-Star Game with Gilas Pilipinas, starring the 6-foot-11 Fajardo, defeating Slaughter and the all-star selection, 101-93.
They both went at it during their college days in Cebu, got on board separate ships in the pros but only revived their rivalry on the floor in that game after Fajardo suffered an ankle injury early in the ongoing season.
“A lot has changed since we battled in Cebu,” said Slaughter. “He’s more comfortable with his shots and he has grown stronger.”
Slaughter was a dominating figure for the all-stars, marking the stat sheet with 11 points, 10 rebounds, one block and an assist in 26 minutes while Fajardo wound up with 13 points, five rebounds, four assists, one steal and a block in 8:36 minutes of action.
Fajardo, 24, feels doubly challenged whenever their matchup comes into play.
“I always look forward to it,” said Fajardo, the Philippine Cup best player of the conference. “There will be more duels in the future.”
Both had taken different routes to stardom. While Slaughter played for the first Gilas squad under Serbian coach Rajko Toroman and the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the UAAP, Fajardo wasn’t as celebrated in the amateur ranks.
Though Fajardo dominated college basketball in the Visayas while playing for University of Cebu, he really didn’t hit it big until he became the No. 1 overall pick by San Miguel Beer (then Petron Blaze) in the 2012 rookie draft.
“It’s a life-long dream that came true and it only became more exciting when I was chosen for the national team,” said Fajardo.
Gilas coach Chot Reyes had tapped Slaughter for the PBA-backed national squad but the gentle Ginebra giant would rather give his slot to someone who has worked hard for the team and deserves it better.
Gilas is preparing for the Fiba World Cup in Spain (Aug. 30 to Sept.14) and Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea (Sept. 19 to Oct. 4).
The Nationals qualified in the worlds for the first time in 36 years after placing second in the Fiba Asia Championship held in Manila last year.
Slaughter, however, isn’t closing the door on future stints with the national team, entertaining a possible teamup with Fajardo in manning the slot for the Philippines in the international arena.
But for now, they are the biggest rivals, literally, in the PBA.