San Miguel Beer’s (SMB) dominant center June Mar Fajardo remains the current best local player in the land, bar none. The 6’10” Cebuano behemoth is simply an immovable force in the shaded lane, especially in the Philippine Basketball Association’s (PBA) Philippine Cup, where he lords over all other cagers with his 19.9 points, 16 boards and 1.82 blocks per game. The three-time PBA Season MVP is the main reason why the Beermen stay on top of the current standings. They enjoy a twice-to-beat quarterfinal edge over No. 8 Rain Or Shine.
Without imports in the Philippine Cup (All-Filipino Conference), Fajardo can pretty much do as he pleases, particularly inside the paint. And if other teams double on him, his teammates make them pay with their outside weapons. Alex Cabagnot (17.11 points), Arwind Santos (15.36 points) and Marcio Lassiter (13.82 points) provide the firepower when the defense collapses on their prize center. With no double team or early help, Fajardo will score at will. He is clearly a man among boys in the Philippine Cup.
But another local player has caught the Philippine Cup by storm, even when he stands less than six feet tall. Global Port’s superb combo guard Terrence Romeo has been marvelous this conference, wowing the crowd each game with his league-leading 28.7 points per game (PPG). The 2013 5th overall pick and 2015 PBA Most Improved Player awardee carries most of his team’s scoring load this conference, along with Stanley Pringle’s 17.8 PPG. Global Port is having its best season so far as it finished the elimination phase at fifth spot for the right to challenge No. 4 Talk N’ Text in the quarterfinals. Romeo’s jaw-dropping performances make him the current most exciting player in Philippine basketball today. Of course, he has always been known as a heavy scorer, even during his high school days. But he has certainly exceeded expectations already now that he has made the PBA his playground. He has so many offensive weapons that stopping him one-on-one is almost unthinkable. Romeo hits at least four triples per game to go along with his picturesque drives to the hoop. What’s even more remarkable is that Terrence is also one of the leading players in the PBA in assists, with over six per game, on top of 3.9 rebounds.
Fajardo and Romeo were both named by Gilas head coach Chot Reyes to the 26-man National men’s pool recently, and this is certainly excellent news for the country. Terrence and June Mar are today’s kings of the PBA hardcourt for sure.
But there are also others making waves in the on-going PBA conference. One of them is Phoenix Fuel Masters rookie Matthew Wright, who averages 17.9 points, 7.1 caroms and 3.8 assists per game. The 6’4” shooting guard from Canada is instrumental in steering Phoenix to the quarterfinal stage against the No. 3 Star Hotshots. Wright rejoined his former Westsports Malaysia Dragons coach Ariel Vanguardia at Phoenix and they’re playing beautiful music together.
Pringle seems fine playing Robin to Romeo for as long as Global Port is amassing W’s. But his contributions of 17.8 PPG, six boards and 3.2 assists cannot be ignored. The 6’1” former PBA Rookie of the Year doesn’t appear to have a problem with Romeo getting all the attention. In some games, when the defense zeroes in on Terrence, Pringle gets to have a bigger share of the scoring pie.
Mahindra’s versatile forward Alex Mallari has also surprised many in the Philippine Cup with his souped-up game. The 6’4” Long Beach, California native almost scored a triple-double in a winning effort against NLEX last week with a 30-point, 10-rebound and nine- assist performance. He leads the Floodbuster in scoring with 17.8 PPG, plus over seven rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.7 steals per outing.
Let’s not forget Barangay Ginebra’s Japeth Aguilar, who has been the driving force of his team this conference with 17.5 markers, 8.8 boards and 1.9 blocks per game. The 6’9” power forward and Gilas candidate has undoubtedly come of age this Philippine Cup as he pilots Ginebra to the quarterfinals against No. 2 Alaska.
Truly, the Philippine Cup draws out the best from our local cagers.