MANILA, Philippines -- Two years after a leg injury that kept him out of action for an entire season, San Miguel center June Mar Fajardo appears to have fully regained his fitness while also expanding his skill set.
Fajardo, 32, is the leading candidate for Best Player of the Conference honors at the end of the elimination round of the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup. The "Kraken" led the league in rebounding while helping the Beermen to a 9-2 win-loss record and the top overall seed in the conference.
He put up 18.5 points, the third-best mark in the league, along with 13.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.6 blocks, and 1.0 steals per game. His average statistical points (SPs) of 43.2 gave Fajardo a relatively comfortable lead against the next closest candidate -- his teammate, CJ Perez.
Perez averaged 17.5 points, 7.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 2.5 steals per game for the Beermen in the elimination round, highlighted by a triple-double effort against Converge. He tallied an average SPs of 39.5.
In third place is Ginebra's do-it-all guard and reigning PBA Most Valuable Player Scottie Thompson, who averaged 15.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 1.3 steals per game for the Gin Kings for 37.9 SPs. He was followed by Ginebra teammate Japeth Aguilar, who normed 16.7 points, 8.4 rebounds, and a league-leading 2.5 blocks per game for 34.2 SPs.
Rounding out the top five is Magnolia's Jio Jalalon, who averaged 13.1 points along with 6.9 assists -- tops in the league -- and 6.4 boards per game for 34.1 SPs.
Mikey Williams, who led the league in scoring with 21.7 points per game, just missed the cut-off for eligibility for the BPC award as he has played in only six games for the TNT Tropang GIGA. The minimum number of games played to be eligible for the honor is eight, or 70% of the team's games.
The rest of the top 10 is as follows: Christian Standhardinger of Barangay Ginebra (33.3 SPs); Robert Bolick of NorthPort Batang Pier (32.63 SPs); Jamie Malonzo of NorthPort Batang Pier (32.60 SPs); Calvin Oftana of NLEX (32.1 SPs); and Roger Pogoy of TNT Tropang GIGA (31.2 SPs).
If Fajardo goes on to win the BPC for the Philippine Cup, it will be his record-extending ninth time to win the individual honor.
Meanwhile, leading the Rookie of the Year race is Blackwater forward Ato Ular, who averaged 14.1 points and 8.1 rebounds in the elimination round. A second round pick, Ular emerged as a crucial contributor for the Bossing in their path to the quarterfinals.
Ular's 27.2 SPs ranks first among rookies and 20th in the whole league.
Second among rookies is Converge big man Justin Arana, who had averages of 8.4 points and 8.0 rebounds per game for 22.1 SPs.
Below is the full list of BPC candidates: