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Junmar: PBA’s next big man

By TITO S. TALAO

 Junmar FajardoManila, Philippines – Minus the skyhook, B-Meg coach Tim Cone says Junmar Fajardo, Petron Blaze’s 6-foot10 No. 1 draft pick, will have the same impact coming into the Philippine Basketball Association like a young Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Say that again, Tim?

“Yup, that’s right. Watching Junmar in rookie camp is like going to an NBA camp and seeing Lew Alcindor,“ confirms Cone.

Abdul-Jabbar, the 7-foot-2 Lakers legend and one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players, went by the name Lew Alcindor when he was still with the Milwaukee Bucks in the early `70s before he converted to Islam.

“Just the level of play; how good Junmar really is,“ clarifies the smitten Llamados mentor. “I used Lew Alcindor because he’s my all-time favorite player. But I can use Bill Walton and a lot of other guys although Alcindor, Abdul-Jabbar, had that impact coming into the NBA.“

Cone says Fajardo was largely overshadowed by imports in the Asean Basketball League where he played for San Miguel Beer.

“People don’t know how good he really is because he was playing with a bunch of imports,“ Cone says. “He really didn’t get a chance.“

Except for a handful of centers like Asi Taulava, Sonny Thoss and maybe Japeth Aguilar, Fajardo will be looking down on a lot of people who will try to defend him straight up man-to-man in the PBA.

“That’s why I’m really, really glad that we traded for Yancy [de Ocampo],“ says Cone. “Because now I have a six-nine guy who can get a body and stand in front of him [Fajardo]. If you don’t have a six-nine guy who can do that, you’re dead; he’ll eat you up.“

As good as he already is, Fajardo can only get better, says the 14-time PBA champion.

“Of course there are things that he can still improve on,“ says Cone.

Like what, for instance?

“Court vision…court vision…that’s just one,“ Cone says, laughing. “But there’s gotta be more. He doesn’t need much teaching though. He’s like a six-ten Danny I [Ildefonso].“

Without Ildefonso’s passing ability just yet.

“What made Danny really special was his ability to pass out of the post on a double-team,“ says Cone, whose Alaska Aces had faced Ildefonso and San Miguel on numerous encounters in the past.

“That’s something Junmar’s gonna have to figure out because no one’s gonna stop him one-onone. You’ll gonna have to double him all the time. But when you double him, then you got [Chris] Lutz and [Marcio] Lassiter and J-Wash and Arwind [Santos] and [Alex] Cabagnot all sitting out there in the perimeter.“

So how does B-Meg plan to get past a powerhouse team like Petron? “They’re a scary team, Petron.

They’re like a national team right there,“ says Cone. “But we’ll try to out-chemistry them. That’s what we do, we try to out-chemistry people.“

Exactly what the Boston Celtics did to the Bucks and Lew Alcindor [Kareem Abdul-Jabbar] in the 1974 NBA Finals.

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