Crack the Kraken
June 15, 2012 by Sydrick Salazar
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As early as last year, the consensus first pick of the 2012 PBA Draft is Junmar Fajardo. I have no idea how he’ll enter the draft because he went straight to the ABL than trying out with the D-League but people are bent that he’ll join the pro ranks this August.
As seen in the 2011 Champions Cup, he is a monster. The guy uses his height well in dominating and protecting the paint. It is a struggle to see his enemies try to elude his large interior. The guy can shoot, defend, and for some insane reason is tolerable in the charity stripe.
I can’t say that he’ll have a better career than Marlou Aquino but I can definitely see him edging out fellow Southerner Samigue Eman.
However, I might need to check out the first two years of his PBA career before I can say that he’s better than EJ Feihl, Yancy De Ocampo, and Bonel Balingit.
See here’s one good thing about the PBA D-League. Allein Maliksi was a meh player when he was in college but because of the exploits he unleashed in Cebuana Lhuillier, he became a MVP and a sought-after find. His talent discovery came from hard work. Since D-League is Ground Zero for most of the squads, he dominated practice and got the love from then-Cebuana coach Luigi Trillo. The same can be said to Vic Manuel who also had a MVP campaign with Cebuana.
What I’m basically trying to say here is that the ABL is no D-League.
So what’s my beef with the D-League?
The ABL is created to let the ASEAN nations fight each other in the sport we currently dominate in the region. A team can play three ASEAN imports and two non-ASEAN imports without any height limits in one game. Commercial groups all over Asia fund the teams and countries go all out to support their respective home teams.
For us Filipinos, the ABL is another way for our basketball journeymen to get a paycheck. Because of our hoop dominance in the region, our neighbors look for our countrymen to boost their rosters. Since the first ABL season, teams have employed the services of Filipinos whether they are veterans past their prime, free agents that did not or rarely played in the PBA, or former collegiate stars that want to use the ABL as their stepping-stone to the PBA.
This is where Junmar Fajardo comes in.
Here are some of the points I want you guys to check out:
When Noli Eala recruited Fajardo, he wanted Kraken to use the ABL as his playground. However, he is a rookie and for him playing in an atmosphere like the ABL should scare his wits. Think of the ABL as a four-month version of the SEA Games. Also, you have to wonder if the pressure is getting inside of Fajardo. People are calling him the South’s best kept secret because he rarely gets any TV time. Sure we can say the same things to Greg Slaughter but Slaughter has had OJT work with Smart-Gilas where he was sent to various international tourneys and training camps and the Ateneo Blue Eagles.
In some ways, the ABL changes its roster just like when the MBA still existed. Sometimes all it takes is a midseason acquisition to destroy a team’s depth chart like what happened when John Ferriols, Leo Avenido, Roger Yap, and Chris Banchero came into the picture.
Let’s just cite the 2012 PBA Commissioner’s Cup as an example. Players like Kerby Raymundo, James Sena, Asi Taulava (before Earl Barron), Doug Kramer, Harvey Carey, and Japeth Aguilar played for more for their respective teams in the Philippine Cup. All of a sudden, they became benchwarmers when the seven-foot imports entered. Now imagine the feeling of Fajardo when regardless of how great or weak his game is, he’ll just have the constant 10 to 15 minutes per game because Nick Fazekas and Duke Crews will get his minutes, scoring opportunities, rebounds, and every nice thing basketball has to offer.
WHY PLAY FOR A PHILIPPINE TEAM?
I know representing the Philippines brings pride and honor. That does not count in the ABL. There are two teams Philippine teams in the ABL – the San Miguel Beermen and the Air-Asia Philippine Patriots. Both squads don’t need to use ASEAN imports because they are that souped up. Unlike if they play in Indonesia or Malaysia or Singapore or Thailand or Vietnam, players and fans in the Philippines won’t treat them as saviors but merely as exceptional rookies. Imagine the love Jai Reyes must feel playing for Bangkok, Patrick Cabahug playing for Malaysia, Donald Dulay playing for Singapore, Jerick Canada playing for Indonesia, and Noy Javier playing for Saigon.
Sure, you might say these guys are virtual no-namers or pretentious superstars but they are more than what Junmar Fajardo is getting.
And here’s another stat for you: since the start of the ABL there have been at least seven players that went to the ABL before applying for the PBA. These players are Ateneo’s Nonoy Baclao, UE’s Elmer Espiritu and Val Acuna, UST’s Khasim Mirza, FEU’s Aldrech Ramos, Adamson’s Jerick Canada, and Fil-Ams Stanley Pringle and Banchero.
What has happened to Baclao, Espiritu, Acuna, and Mirza after they left the ABL? The thing is the path these four took is the same path Fajardo is taking. These four ranged from second unit guys and with the exception of Espiritu, barely helped in their team’s cause.
I am sorry to say this but for incoming rookies, what these guys learned in the ABL is how to languish in the bench.
This is why it was nice Canada taking a different route. Canada is averaging roughly 8 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and almost two steals per game and this former Adamson Falcon is starting for the squad alongside MVP contender Mario Wuysang for the Finals-bound Indonesia Warriors. For the PBA scouts it will be interesting how they rate Canada because he is a combo guard. There’s a possibility that this guy will become the next ABL discovery like Rudy Lingganay.
The same can be said with regards to his Indonesia teammate Stanley Pringle. The combo forward is said to play like a cross of Danny Seigle and Kelly Williams and he should be a wonderful prospect for the 2013 PBA Draft.
People will say “what about Chris Banchero” who’s playing extremely well this season. Well, mark my words Banchero will be the next big thing in Philippine Basketball. He’s got the look to endorse products, the skills to make the national team, and the smarts to give him the best career people dream of. But then, for every Banchero there’s a Fajardo… and an Aldrech Ramos for that matter who instead of playing good basketball, had to sit on the bench.
Aldrech Ramos could have played for NLEX instead of the Patriots because he looked totally lost in the ABL.
When Marlou Aquino played in the PBL, he dominated the league and no one came close. Feihl was never a scorer in the PBA but he learned to impose his presence in the shaded area. Yancy De Ocampo is in the same caliber of Marlou and had he didn’t get pingponged by Talk N Text and Air21 early in his career he would have blossomed a la Kerby Raymundo.
Bonel Balingit was a work in progress in the PBL but when the opportunity arises to show off his wares he did not disappoint.
Basically all of these guys made it a point to dominate the PBL so when they moved to the pros… they were ready.
If Fajardo joined a Petron team with a frontline consisting of Jay Washington, Arwind Santos, Danny Ildefonso, Dorian Pena, Nonoy Baclao, and Rob Reyes (with a possibility of Danny Seigle), expect one or two careers to languish in the bench.
Hopefully it wouldn’t be Junmar.
Because that means he’ll probably go to the place Samigue Eman was in when he was starting his career.