MANILA, Philippines - Acquiring the services of two promising players, including a towering 6-foot-10 center, makes the San Miguel Beermen confident about their initial campaign in the coming third season of the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL).
With highly-touted Fil-Am guard Chris Banchero and intimidating big man Junmar Fajardo making up the core of the franchise known for its rich, winning tradition, Noli Eala believes the Beermen are a competitive lot capable of challenging for the championship of the fastest growing regional cage league in this side of the world.
Eala, San Miguel Corp. director of sports and special assistant to the office of the president, accompanied team coach Bobby Parks, Banchero, and Fajardo in the final session of the PSA Forum for 2011 yesterday at Shakey's UN Ave.
"He's (Banchero) been the guy we've been looking at since we first formed the Smart Gilas team, so we're definitely happy that he joined us," said Eala, a former commissioner of the PBA and one-time executive director of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP).
The San Miguel executive described Fajardo, star center of the University of Cebu, as the "future of Philippine basketball," especially after capping his collegiate career by scoring 24 points and grabbing 24 rebounds in the lone battle for third place in the Philippine Collegiate Championship League (PCCL) recently, which the Webmasters lost to the San Beda Red Lions.
"Sa tulong ni Fajardo, lalong lumakas ang aming team, nagkaroon kami ng post presence at nagkaroon ng character ang team. Hopefully, we will be in the finals this year," Eala added.
Banchero and Fajardo both said they are up to the task.
"I've won three state championships (with Seattle Pacific University) so I know what it takes to win. I'm excited to be here and we'll be a fun team to watch," said the 6-foot-1 point guard.
"First time kong mag-lalaro sa big league, sanay kasi ako sa Cebu na maliliit ang kalaban. Pero dito iba na ang level ng competition. Iba na ang pressure dito," said the 22-year-old Fajardo, who was big hit among those in attendance in the weekly forum presented by Smart, Outlast Battery, PAGCOR, and Shakey’s.