For the first 4 years of his PBA career, San Miguel Beer slotman June Mar Fajardo is used to banging bodies with Alaska forward Calvin Abueva.
But in a rare occasion in their basketball careers, Fajardo and Abueva will be playing side by side as they vie for spots in the Gilas Pilipinas team competing in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament this July.
The undersized Alaska wingman joined the Gilas practice for the first time on Wednesday, and yes, Fajardo admitted he could feel the “Beast’s” presence in an instant.
“Nadagdagan yung intensity namin sa practice dahil kay Calvin,” Fajardo told FOX Sports after the national pool’s 3-hour-long practice at the Meralco gym.
Abueva, who won his first-ever Best Player of the Conference award recently, showed up with his customary hustle on both ends of the floor.
Fajardo took special note of that, believing that the former PBA Rookie of the Year’s energy could easily rub off on the national pool.
“Masaya kami nakabalik din siya, malaking bagay yung energy niya saka hustle niya sa mga plays,” noted the reigning 2-time PBA Most Valuable Player.
In fact, the soft-spoken San Miguel center said Abueva makes up his lack of size with his big, fighting heart. And that’s what he hopes, will spell the difference once Gilas kicks off its Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament campaign in Manila on July 5.
“Oo, maliit siya (Abueva) pero malaki naman ang puso niya dahil sa hustle plays niya. Saka, yung binibigay niya na intensity parang nakaka-boost din para sa amin,” he added.
Fajardo and Abueva came in 1-2 in the 2012 PBA Rookie Draft. Their teams have met in the Finals for 3 of the last 5 conferences. — By Richard Dy