Rise of the Kraken

Long before the mentorship that molded Fajardo, Ildefonso saw upside in Cebu pickup game
By: - Reporter / @cedelfptINQ
/ 04:04 AM June 22, 2020

June Mar Fajardo challenges the defense of Greg Slaughter. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/ (file)

Long before San Miguel star June Mar Fajardo became the most dominant player of the PBA, he was a protege of one of the game’s greats in Danny Ildefonso, who saw early on the massive upside of the 6-foot-10 behemoth.

Fajardo and Ildefonso­ played together at Petron during the tail end of the latter’s stint with the San Miguel franchise, but the two-time MVP said the mentorship started earlier than that—back when a Fajardo was still an unpolished gem in Cebu.


By his recollection, Ildefonso said he played with Fajardo in a pickup game arranged by another former San Miguel great, Dondon Hontiveros, in Cebu when the big man was playing collegiate ball at University of Cebu.

Even with his size, Ildefonso recalled that Fajardo had a penchant for asking for the ball from the top of the key, which prompted him to encourage the young big man to camp in the shaded lane.


“I told him he won’t get rich if he stays outside the shaded lane,” the retired PBA star said during a recent episode of the PBA Kamustahan podcast.

Fajardo has obviously kept in mind those words from Ildefonso, cashing in on his size and skill to become the league’s most dominant star. Ildefonso took Fajardo under his wing during his rookie season, teaching him the footwork and offensive moves that made the two-time MVP successful in a career that spanned 17 years.

Interestingly, Fajardo, who is still recovering from a shin injury, also has eight titles just like Ildefonso.

But the San Miguel cornerstone has shattered individual league records with six MVP awards.
“One thing great about June Mar has always been his willingness to learn,” Ildefonso said. Fajardo remains grateful for Ildefonso’s influence and hangs on to some of the advice the San Miguel great has shared with him over the years.
“There may be a lot of mentors, but that won’t mean anything if you don’t actually listen to your coach,” Fajardo said in Filipino when asked what was the best advice Ildefonso gave him. INQ

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TAGS: Basketball, June Mar Fajardo, PBA
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