Fajardo, Tiu make PBA debuts today
The top overall pick in the last Draft seen by many as a game-changer in the PBA gets his first taste of pro action today when rock-solid Petron Blaze battles Rain or Shine in the Philippine Cup eliminations at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
June Mar Fajardo, an agile, 6-foot-10 center with a feathery touch, and the rest of the Boosters take the Big Dome floor in the 7:30 p.m. contest against the Elasto Painters.
Fajardo adds ceiling and muscle to an already formidable Petron roster, which has been prepared hard in the off-season by former national team coach Rajko Toroman.
Incidentally, it would be interesting to see how Toroman and newly appointed coach Olsen Racela would call the shots in the game, with the Serbian very much involved in the team’s tune-up games.
Fajardo now becomes the full time center of the Boosters, giving 6-foot-7 Jay Washington the chance to play the power forward spot and Arwind Santos the small forward position.
Petron will start to redeem itself from a disappointing stint here last year, when the Boosters held a 3-1 lead over eventual champion Talk ‘N Text in the Final Four only to lose the last three games of the series.
Rain or Shine also unveils a celebrated rookie in Chris Tiu, the former national team mainstay who will likely be the starting point guard for the Painters until last season’s Rookie of the Year, Paul Lee, returns.
Lee went under the knife to repair a dislocated shoulder sustained two months ago in the Painters’ breakthrough title series win opposite B-Meg, now San Mig Coffee.
Gabe Norwood and Jeff Chan have also returned to the Rain or Shine fold after two months of duty with the Smart Gilas-Pilipinas Five, and both could become the biggest factors for the Painters here if they flash the form they did in the Jones Cup.
The Philippines won the Jones Cup in Taipei last August, going 7-1 because Chan was prolific from the outside and Norwood shut down the opposing team’s top guns with impunity.
Meanwhile, Air21 and Barako Bull, squads who have been out of the radar in preseason polls, battle it out in the 5:15 p.m. game.
Barangay Ginebra San Miguel posted a 110-90 victory over newcomer Global Port in the inaugurals last Sunday.