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Hoop Nut One-on-One: is June Mar Fajardo the best PBA center today?



After a long school day, the Hoop Nut tag team had a long conversation. The topic? Can we really consider June Mar Fajardo as the best PBA center today?

Enzo Flojo
So June Mar owned Greg last night. Does that make him (June Mar) the best center in the league right now?

Rolly Mendoza
The challenger to the throne: Greg Slaughter

That was an awesome game! I’m sure the millions and millions of fans watching last night would definitely agree.. Anyway, according to individual award’s that were given last year, Junemar is the best player by virtue of winning the MVP while Greg is the challenger to the throne after he won Rookie of the Year. So, YES. Junemar is the best center and maybe even the best player in the PBA

Enzo Flojo
Difficult to argue with the fact June Mar has been productive and mighty dominant, but I kinda feel like SMB is focusing on him too much and underutilizing other guys like Marcio and Lutz. For me, it has to go beyond production. June Mar has to make the people around him better, and, perhaps more importantly, push his club to a title.

Right now, June Mar is a little bit like the Dwight Howard of old — a guy who can fill the sheets but cannot really carry a team to the big one.

Rolly Mendoza
I disagree with the Dwight Howard comparison especially since June Mar is a more polished low post scorer than Howard. You might be putting too much pressure on June Mar who is starting his third year in the league. Fajardo has also played for at least 5 head coaches in his 3 years. That lack of continuity could hurt his growth and maturity yet Fajardo bagged the MVP.

Enzo Flojo
C’mon, man! I don’t think it’s possible to put too much pressure on… the MVP! If there’s anybody in the league who should make his team and all his teammates all that much better, it’s him! I’m also not sure if he’ll be able to dance in the paint the same way if he were playing in the league Dwight is. Until he really pushes SMB over the hill and to a title, though, I think he’ll always be a notch lower than the real greats.

asiThe immortal one: Asi Taulava

For me, despite his team not really excelling, Asi Taulava could still be considered the best center out there.

Rolly Mendoza
Hmm.. Asi will be among the great centers of the PBA once he retires while Junemar is just beginning his career. Asi is still a solid player but might be a stretch to consider Asi better than Junemar at this moment. Even the numbers heavily side with Junemar and if wins are used as a gauge of making your team better, Fajardo also wins that category over Taulava.

Enzo Flojo
Here’s my thing. Put June Mar in any other team and does he play as well? Put him in NLEX and do they win 2 games out of 6? I don’t know think so.

Put Asi in SMB, though, and you know things are gonna be great. You just know, even in his 40s, Asi is still a dominant center. I mean, only two teams have beaten Ginebra this conference — SMB and NLEX.

Asi makes his teammates better, and June Mar isn’t there yet.

But wait, aren’t we leaving out Greg Slaughter? Shouldn’t Gregzilla be in the conversation? You put the numbers together and it’s June Mar, Greg, then Asi, but neither June Mar nor Greg has proven to be a winner yet.

Think young Shaq and Alonzo versus veteran Hakeem in the mid-90s.

Rolly Mendoza
It’s tough to imagine if Junemar can be effective playing with NLEX but don’t you think that it’s unlikely for a young MVP to make his new team worse? Was Junemar so undeserving of last year’s MVP that if he joined another team, that team would be better without him? I highly doubt that. I bet more than half of the league would trade for Fajardo in a split second IF SMB made him available.

Anyway, it took Asi four years before he won a championship with Mobiline so that gives Junemar a year and Gregzilla two more years to win one of their own.

The best center of all time: Ramon Fernandez (PBA center from Rolly's childhood)

The best center of all time: Ramon Fernandez (PBA center from Rolly’s childhood) Image from Interaksyon

Ah, we are dating ourselves by comparing Junemar, Greg and Asi to the great centers of the NBA… but how about comparing them to two of the best centers of our childhood: Ramon Fernandez and Abet Guidaben?

Enzo Flojo

Center from Enzo's childhood: the Tower of Power Benjie Paras (image from PinoyExchange)

Center from Enzo’s childhood: the Tower of Power Benjie Paras (image from PinoyExchange)

Iba ata childhood mo, Rollz. Ang centers nung childhood ko sina Jerry Codiñera, Benjie Paras, Marlou Aquino, and Dennis Espino e.

Haha yeah June Mar has one more year to win, but his SMB team is much deeper than what Asi had at Mobiline, and, well, I’m not so optimistic given his injury history. I’m sold on June Mar being a great center, but I’m not sure if it’s because of SMB’s system of force-feeding him e. Unlike Asi, Fajardo never consistently excelled in international play and when he was in the ASEAN Basketball League he was pretty much a scrub.

He’s a completely different kind of “producer” now, of course, but I’m still not sure if he can duplicate these numbers with, let’s say, JC Intal instead of Arwind Santos or Jonas Villanueva instead of Sol Mercado as teammates.

Rolly Mendoza
Well, Fernandez and Guidaben were replaced by Paras and Codinera but the older duo had more epic battles…
Anyway, maybe Junemar wont produce the same numbers with another team but I’ll give this to Asi, he is a much better defender than Fajardo or Slaughter.

If Fajardo wins another MVP or a title, will that make you change your opinion about him?

Enzo Flojo
MVP, meh, but if Fajardo wins a title, then I am 100% sold already. That’s really gonna solidify his status as the best center in the local game. It’ll be pretty interesting to see who gets a title first, though– Greg or June Mar.

If they’re not careful baka maunahan pa sila ni Almazan.

Kinda like the Olajuwon-Ewing rivalry in the 90s, too. Olajuwon got two rings, Ewing got 0. I think ten years from now we’ll be talking about Greg & June Mar in the same way, but who’ll have titles and who won’t?

Rolly Mendoza
I’ll have to agree that winning titles will be the ultimate measuring stick for Greg and Junemar. However, I will also consider their contributions to our national team and the medals that they will bring home to our country.

Their impact should not be limited to the PBA only.

  • ekaj_03

    I disagree to what Enzo said that Marcio and Lutz were underutilized by the SMB. Based on the stats provided by PBA online (, both players are averaging 32 Min/Game and Fajardo is at 37 Min/Game. Take a look at the stats breakdown I created based on PBA online.

    As you can see, Lassiter total FGA is at 86 and 12.3 per ball game and shot just 30.2%. And Lutz on the other hand, averages 9.7 FGA per game and an average of 38.2%. Aaanndd Junemar’s FGA per game? its 13. Just a shade higher than Marcio. So I don’t think those 2 guys are underutilized. They are just struggling with their shots.

    With what Enzo said, “For me, it has to go beyond production. June Mar has to make the people
    around him better, and, perhaps more importantly, push his club to a
    title.” – Mind you that they’re running a new system right now under Coach Leo. And what can Junemar do on his struggling teammates? They have open shots but they can’t get it.

    And to answer the question:is June Mar Fajardo the best PBA center today?
    – Absolutely, Yes! No doubt. No need for explanation. Stat-wise, Efficiency; also they are winning games. And they’re tied at the top with Alaska at 6-1.

    Only time can tell when Junemar will get his first title. But I feel that it will not be too long. 🙂

    • atchoi

      Agree with you mate. Come on enzo, we are talking about the best center at present yet you are comparing their past accomplishments, that’s quite unfair for Junmar.

  • IshmaelM

    Making your teammates better. That’s a pretty blanket statement. Does June Mar pass the ball off of double teams or on cuts? Yes, he does. Does he give effective screens on the perimeter or on the paint to free up his teammates? Yes, he does. Does he play good individual and help defense? yes, he does. I don’t know what else you expect from the guy. He plays 40 minutes a game and gets the most stats of any player in the league, not because he wants to, but because it is what he needs to do to help win games.

    SMB is not the deepest team. Take him out of the team and SMB can be defeated by Kia. SMB needed every minute of the 40 minutes, every point of the 36 and every rebound of the 17 in order to win that game. It’s not his fault that Arwind was a non-entity in that game or that SMB had no other center but him. The SMB team without Fajardo is the one of the smallest team in the leagues. It does not have any effective post defenders or rim protectors or excelled defensive rebounder other than him. He has probably the most workload of any player in the league and yet you question if he makes his teammates better?

    On the contrary, the onus is on his teammates, his coach and the team’s management to prove that they are worthy of all the effort that June Mar has been giving to the team. He needs help defending the paint, rebounding and scoring consistently but no one else is doing it, hence he has to play 40 minutes a night. Last AFC cup he averaged about the same minutes and they reached the semis. But he did not have any more juice in the 4th quarter of those semi games to be a difference maker. They lost. I don’t know what else you could ask the guy to do.

    June Mar has done everything in his power to make SMB win, it’s up to his teammates, coach and management to do their job properly and support him. Because currently, SMB seems to be just a one man team.

    • Guest

      Very well said, IshmaelM. 🙂

  • Alfred Stan

    bobo ng analogy ng enzo.. hypocrite pa.. sa tingin nya sa ngayon may mas pipili pa kay Taulava kaysa sa kay Jun Mar.. tanga na lang! ang pinaguusapan best center today! Kahit ilagay yan si JunMar sa NLEX magiging dominant parin yan.. kung manalo o hindi ang team nya hindi yun ang usapan… you can be a complete player but not the best.. versatility ang tawag sa complete aka Pau Gasol.. Si Shaq hindi sya kumpleto pero the best center at one point of his time dahil sobrang dominant.. Si Almazan kahit maging unang champion yan kaysa kay JunMar at GReg hindi masasabing best center yan.. kahit mag grandslam pa yan hindi masasabing mas mahusay yan kina JunMAr at Greg.. kung championship pala usapan eh di si Ping pala pinaka mahusay na center ngayon dahil sya ang pinaka mahusay na malaki ng Purefoods kahit PF ang position. Naghahanap lang ng maiipipintas tong si Enzo kay Junmar.. yan yung mga taong laging may nasasabi para iparating na mahusay sya.. kahit magchampion yan si Junmar ang susunod a sasabihin nyan magagaling kasi kampi o konti pa lang championship.. Uulitin ko the Best Center today ang usapan.. hindi yung past accomplishments o yung mga kakampi ang usapan. Jusmiyo!! Napakaipokrito.. kung pipili ka ng center today sino pipiliin mo? Asi? tanga mo!!

    • Guest

      Pareho tayo ng nakita Sir Alfred. Ginamit kasi ni Sir Enzo na basehan ang Championship at si Asi para sagutin ang tanong. Of course magaling si Asi but ang tanong is “Who is the Best PBA Center TODAY?”. So siyempre, wala nang ibang sagot niyan kundi si June Mar (stats, efficiency, etc.). As with the championship, you can still be the best center even though you still haven’t won a championship trophy. Winning a championship is a group effort, not by one player only. So even though June Mar is/will be the MVP, if his teammates don’t help him, wala ring mangyayari. Not winning a championship doesn’t make a player with the Center role less of being the best center. If you win the MVP award but not the Championship, still good. But if you win both the MVP and the Championship awards, then better (if not the best). 🙂

  • Guest

    Very well said, IshmaelM. 🙂

  • Guest

    June Mar, having won 1 Best Player of the Conference award and 1 Season MVP award were proofs that he really is the best PBA Center TODAY. As with Enzo’s case/argument, he is basing the “Who is the Best PBA Center Today?” award to the one who can give his team a championship and by comparing him to Asi, who is a veteran already (which is really unfair to June Mar and Greg who were just starting their first few years in the PBA). Yes, SMB haven’t won a championship yet with June Mar on their team, because a championship is needed to be won not by June Mar ALONE but by the whole TEAM.

  • missblue17

    June Mar, having won 1 Best Player of the Conference award and 1 Season MVP award (not to mention those awards he got with other PBA players as a team, i.e. Mythical Team, All-Defensive Team, etc.) were enough proofs that he really is the best PBA center TODAY. As with Sir Enzo’s case/argument, he is using the Championship and a Veteran Player (in this case, Asi Taulava) to answer the question “Who is the Best PBA Center Today?”. If we base it to the one who gave his team a championship, June Mar still doesn’t have it. But without the championship, the Center player could still be the best center (because winning a Championship is a group/team effort, unlike the Best Center recognition/award which has to be given to one player only.) In the case of June Mar, SMB haven’t won a championship yet with him on their team but it doesn’t mean that he couldn’t be the best center because again, SMB’s championship is needed to be won not by June Mar ALONE but by the whole SMB Team (the coaches, his teammates, staffs, etc.). Moreover, not winning a championship doesn’t make a player with the Center role/position less of being the best center. If the Center player win the MVP award but not the Championship, good/still good. But if he win both the MVP and the Championship awards, then better (if not the best). On the other hand, if we are going to identify who’s the best center today by comparing him/them to Asi, it is not fair since Asi is a veteran already (while June Mar and Greg have just started their first few years in the PBA). In other words, Asi has already done/achieved many while June Mar and Greg have still more rice to eat in order to equalize/surpass Asi’s achievements.

    A Center Position is based on one player’s achievements. So if we are going to look on each current Center players’ records, siyempre, wala nang ibang nangunguna kundi si June Mar (stats, efficiency, etc.). If the question is “Who/What is the Best PBA Team Today?”, it might not be SMB, even if they have June Mar. But the question here is, “Who is the Best PBA Center Today?”. So the answer? It’s June Mar.

  • Isip isip pag may time

    more Polished low post scorer than Howard? Rolly Mendoza isip isip din pag may time. Howard is the most dominant center sa NBA for 6-7 years bago ma injured and he’s putting up milestones and leading rebounding and has a high scoring average, and yet fajardo is more polished, i know that Junmar is the most dominant filipino and the greatest center but dont compare him to Howard,


Rose Vargas all set for UAAP return after four-season absence



In an unprecedented move, hard-hitting Far Eastern University spiker Rose Vargas will return to finish her UAAP career when Season 80 kicks off on February 3 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

Vargas last played for the Lady Tamaraws in Season 75. With a year of eligibility left, Vargas left the Morayta-based program to focus on her academics and pursue a career in the semi-pro ranks.

Five years since her last UAAP game, Vargas says that she did not hesitate when FEU officials asked if she wanted to return to play out her final year of eligibility.

During her time in the V-League, she played for the Cagayan Valley Rising Suns, the Pocari Sweat Lady Warriors, the Bureau of Custom Transformers, and, most recently, the Creamline Cool Smashers.

“‘Yung pag-babalik naman dito (FEU) is hindi ko naman pinag-isipan matagal or nag-dalawang isip ako,” said the Season 74 Best Scorer. “Noong tinanong lang sa akin kung gusto ko daw bumalik, ang sagot ko lang, oo.

“Kasi gusto kong makatulong, and gusto kong makuha ‘yung championship namin na matagal ng hindi nakukuha ng FEU.”

Vargas adds to an already solid FEU core which includes graduating captain Bernadeth Pons, Toni Rose Basas, and Jerrili Malabanan.

The last time Vargas suited up for FEU, she was the main piece to a core that included Mari Toni Basas — Toni Rose’s older sister, a young Remy Palma, Gyzelle Sy, and Tin Agno.

Vargas now sees herself as more of a complimentary piece, the hardened veteran looking to guide FEU’s younger guns in a season where much if expected of them.

“Ngayon, nadagdagan siguro yung maturity and ko, pagiging veteran daw, sabi, na pwede ko mai-share din sa mga bata ‘yun, as a leader, as an ate,” added Vargas.

“Nako-contribute ko kung anong knowledge ang natutunan ko.”

League insiders are confident that Vargas, who turned 25-year-old on December 12 last year, will be declared eligible to play in Season 80. Although the UAAP is yet to have their eligibility meeting this week, a source closely monitoring the situation expressed confidence that Vargas will pass the league’s eligibility rules.

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23 for 2023 cadet CJ Perez honored to help out Gilas



Having had the chance to represent the Philippines in FIBA-sanctioned cagefests such the Asia Challenge Cup and the 3X3 All-Stars back in 2016, Lyceum Pirates star CJ Perez is no stranger to the international stage.

But the 24-year-old do-it-all swingman admits that he still gets overwhelmed whenever he sees his seniors — the stars and pillars of the program — in the team. “Nasusurprise [pa rin] ako,” he said. “Mga professionals eh.

“Na-istarstruck pa rin ako sa kanila.”

Perez said so when he finally made his return within Gilas’ realms last Monday night. The last time he was with the National Team was in August 2016, when the SBP built an amateur-laden batch of Gilas cagers that served as the transition from the 2016 Olympic Qualifiers squad to the 2017 SEABA team.

“Sobrang grateful ako (sa invitation),” said the talented six-foot-two guard, after practice at the Meralco Gym.

The reigning NCAA Most Valuable Player is back in the fold for Gilas as his name, along with young, up-and-coming stars, was included in the 23 for 2023 pool — a list of cagers projected to be the contingent for the Manila-hosted World Cup.

“Iniisip ko yun (FIBA World Cup 2023) simula magtawag sila ng practice. Actually nandoon na yung utak ko eh,” the Lyceum Pirate ace bared. “Kailangan ko lang mag work hard pa para makapasok dun sa lineup na yun, kahit malayo pa.

“It’s an honor para ma-represent yung country.”

Unlike in 2016, Perez graced the court and took part in drills with the veterans such as Gabe Norwood, Japeth Aguilar, June Mar Fajardo, among others. With those type of players around him, he feels that the lessons he can get will be limitless.

“Oo sobra. Kahit kanino naman (matututo ka talaga),” Perez shared. “(At tsaka) Dito parang more on sa mental. ‘Di na iniisip yung conditioning kasi may ibang teams naman sila so about sa mental toughness [talaga].”

For now, the 23 for 2023 cadets are already working out not just for familiarity, but also to help the seniors in preparing for the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers this February.

“Sobrang happy and grateful na nakakatulong ako sa kanila kahit sa simpleng practice lang.”

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Blistering Mikey Williams takes home Heritage Import of the Week honor



Photo from ASEAN Basketball League

The resurgent Saigon Heat have been the thorn to topflight clubs teams Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Club and Nanhai Kung Fu, handing both squads their first losses in the eighth season of the ASEAN Basketball League. The Heat would not have done it without Filipino-American import Mikey Williams.

Williams, a 6-foot-2 guard out of Cal State Fullerton, dropped 39 points on 14-for-25 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and nine assists in Saigon’s 121-115 overtime win over Hong Kong.

The former NBA G-Leaguer followed it up with a sensational 24-point, five-rebound, and seven-assist outing in their 96-93 win over Kung Fu.

Overall, the 26-year-old guard averaged 31.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, and 1.0 steals to edge out fellow Filipino AJ Mandani of the Singapore Slingers for the weekly award.

For the Local Player of the Week, two Alab Pilipinas stalwarts were the runners-up for the crown.

Reigning local Most Valuable Player Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. and his floor general Josh Urbiztondo had stellar weeks that earned them honorable mentions.

Parks averaged 17.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists for the week that saw Alab lose to the Slingers at home last Wednesday before bouncing back on the road against the Mono Vampire last Sunday.

Urbiztondo, on the other hand, had norms of 14.5 points on a hot 9-for-17 clip from downtown.

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Brazilian football legend Zico to visit Manila



Contributed photos

One of the best to ever play the Beautiful Game is coming to the Philippines. Zico, who electrified the footballing world in the ’70s and ’80s, is slated to visit Manila on the weekend of January 27.

The Brazilian, whose real name is Arthur Antunes Coimbra, is considered one of the best footballers in the world during the late 70’s and early 80’s. Zico starred for the Brazilian national team, scoring 48 goals in 71 appearances for the Selecao. In 1999, the attacking midfielder came 8th in the FIFA Player of the Century grand jury vote, and in 2004 was named in FIFA’s list of the world’s greatest living players.

Zico played for legendary Brazilian club Flamengo and also for the Italian Serie A team Udinese. He finished his playing career suiting up for Kashima Antlers in the J-League, the top tier of Japanese football, leading them to an unlikely runner-up finish.

The 64-year-old also had a successful managerial career, leading Turkey’s Fenerbahce, Greek team Olympiacos, and CSKA Moscow to titles. Zico was also in charge of the Japanese national team when they won the AFC Asian Cup in 2004. Because of that accomplishment, Zico is one of the most beloved football figures in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Seven Seas Properties, a company that promotes Philippine real estate and Philippine stocks in the Japanese market, is bringing the football icon here.

“We are delighted to welcome Zico to the Philippines. I’m sure he will give a big boost to the growing football scene here,” says Seven Seas Properties President Yukihiro Nishimura.

Zico will attend a CSR event with young footballers from underprivileged communities on Saturday, January 27. The following day, Sunday January 28, he will lead a football clinic for elite young players and coaches in the McKinley Hill stadium in Taguig. Football fans and media are welcome to watch this event, which kicks off at 2:00 pm. Admission is free.

Zico in Manila is also made possible by Otsuka – Solar Philippines, Inter Sports Partners, AgriNurture, and Primex.

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