Fajardo fulfills dream with Petron

By Abac Cordero, The Philippine Star

Posted at Aug 19 2012 08:15 PM | Updated as of Aug 20 2012 08:40 PM

Amateur star Chris Tiu goes to Rain or Shine

MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATE) It wasn't too long ago when June Mar Fajardo of Cebu put his mind into basketball. He knew he had to because by the time he turned 17, he was already 6'5'.

Now 22 and 6 foot 10, Fajardo certainly has his hands full after he emerged the No. 1 pick in yesterday's PBA's annual rookie draft at Robinsons Place in Ermita.

"Dati bilyar lang ang laro ko (I only used to play billiards)," Fajardo, who was drafted by Petron, told journalists that gathered around him for an interview.

In just a few days, he joins the PBA Millionaires Club. San Miguel Corp. (which owns the Petron franchise) will offer him a three-year contract worth P8.55 million.

All he needs to do is put his name over the dotted line.

Fajardo said former PBA hotshot Roel Gomez and another local coach, Caleb Gawangon, helped him hone his skills while he played for University of Cebu (UC) in the Visayas.

"Malaki din ang utang na loob ko sa University of Cebu. Kung hindi dahil sa kanila, wala ako dito (I owe it to UC. If not for them I wouldn't be here)," said the big man worth watching.

Fajardo idolizes Danny Ildefonso, now his teammate at Petron, and said first on his mind when he reports for practice on Wednesday is to improve on his perimeter shooting and free throws.

"Proud ako dahil yung mga dati na pinapanood ko lang sa TV ay kalaro ko na (I'm proud because I'm now playing with those I idolize," said the young player who wears size 17 shoes.

He kissed the orange Petron jersey handed him after his name was called amid cheers from the crowd, and had it on by the time he got up the stage to meet the new members of his PBA family.

Fajardo led 38 others who were drafted for the PBA’s 38th season which unfolds on Sept. 30 with the Philippine Cup. Fifty-seven joined the draft.

Overshadowed by Fajardo's giant presence were NCAA superstar Calvin Abueva who was drafted No. 2 by Alaska, Alex Mallari No. 3 by Petron, Cliff Hodge No. 4 by Meralco, Aldrech Ramos No. 5 by Barako Bull, Christopher Ellis No. 6 by Ginebra, Chris Tiu No. 7 by Rain or Shine, Charles Jensen No. 8 by Ginebra, Vic Manuel No. 9 by Global (after a trade with B Meg involving Bal Acuna and Sean Anthony), and Jason Deutchman No. 10 by PBA newcomer Global Port

"I prepared hard for this draft," said Abueva, perhaps the only draftee who came with his wife and kid.

It came as a big surprise it took so long for Tiu, the former team captain of the Smart Gilas Philippine team, to stand from his chair. But it's not that the others who passed up on him don’t want him. It’s just that they probably don’t need him at the moment.

Still, Tiu was so happy to finally join the PBA.

"I'm so happy to be part of the Rain or Shine family which has always been close to my heart," said Tiu, who reunites with Rain or Shine point guard TY Tang, his teammate at Xavier High School.

Tiu was handed an oversized paint brush, which looked more like a broom, as he got up the stage. Later on he sat at the Petron table, beside head coach Yeng Guiao.

"We were really surprised that we got to Chris Tiu. We thought that by that time he would have been drafted. So we grabbed the opportunity," said Guiao.

It may prove a big mistake for the others to pass up on the sweet shooting guard from Ateneo, who would have been the top pick on any other year. And Guiao is just glad to have him.

"He will be a big help for us because Paul Lee will be recuperating from his injury for the next five months," said Guiao, who looked like he just won the lottery.

Drafted in the second round were Yousef Taha by Air 21, David Marcelo by Barako after a trade with B Meg again involving Ramos and Anthony, Jewel Ponferada by B Meg, Alfred Mandani by Global Port, Lester Alvarez and Eman Monfort by Barako, Kelly Nabong by Meralco after a trade with Rain or Shine involving a 2015 second round pick, Woody Co by Barako, Ralph Reyes by Alaska and Jaypee Belencion by Talk N Text.

In the third round of the draft witnessed by thousands of fans, Simon Atkins went to Air21, Karl Dehesa to Alaska, Ryan Boado to Barako, Janus Lozada to Meralco, Mark Sarangay to Petron, Mark Acosta to Global Port, Bacon Austria to Rain or Shine, Jerick Canada to Ginebra, Gian Chiu to B Meg and Edwin Escueta to Talk N Text.

Late pickings went on in the fourth round, and after a couple of passes, Joseph Hermosisima went to Barako, Erik Suguitan to Meralco, Jan Colina to Global Port, Jewel Palomique to Rain or Shine and Paul Zamar to Ginebra.

More passes were recorded in the fifth where Virgilio Serios was drafted by Global Port and Virgil Buensuceso by Ginebra. Thomas Tan was the only one who was drafted in the sixth round, by Ginebra after a trade with Alaska.

"I expect no less from this year's batch. You are big, you are fast, you are smart and you are skilled. This is just the beginning of a new commitment in and out of the court," said league commissioner Chito Salud.

He then declared this year's rookie draft closed.