Finally, the much-anticipated team-up of behemoths June Mar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter has come true.
Fajardo and Slaughter will be leading Gilas Pilipinas’ charge versus Kazakhstan when they lock horns in the fifth window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, Friday evening at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
The two slotmen’s basketball careers have been intertwined ever since they started to realize their dreams in 2007 in Cebu. The seven-foot Slaughter starred for the UV Green Lancers, while Fajardo suited up for the UC Webmasters.
“It’s cool you know, June Mar was one of the first people I ever met out here in the Philippines back in 2007,” Slaughter pointed out. “Just to imagine eleven years later that we’d be playing together side-by-side on the national team?
“It’s like a dream come true.”
But as much as their team-up is a wish fulfilled, Fajardo is aware that he and Slaughter need to contribute the best way they can, so that they can help the Nationals conquer the visiting Kazakhs.
“Excited kaming pareho ni Greg,” expressed reigning four-time PBA Most Valuable Player Fajardo. “Kailangan lang namin magtrabaho kasi malaki yung responsibilidad namin.
“Gagawin namin lahat para makapag-contribute sa team.”
Slaughter and Fajardo are at the forefront of a team has carried plenty of expectations since it was put up early this November. This current batch flagbearers are considered as the best ever assembled.
“I’m excited … to see how far the national team has come over the past eight years,” said the 30-year-old Slaughter, he himself a Gilas pioneer.
“There’s a lot of new players, there’s still some old ones, but I’m just excited.”
Looking back, history is on the side of the Filipino dribblers against Kazakhstan. Gilas has had the Kazakhs’ number since they dealt the latter a humiliating 96-59 defeat in the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia last August.
And as per head coach Yeng Guiao, on Friday, Gilas will face virtually the same team whom they obliterated in the Asiad, as Kazakhstan – ranked fifth in Group F with a 3-5 record – will only have one or two new faces on its roster.
But even with the odds in their favor, Slaughter doesn’t want to take them lightly.
“We can’t take any chances, we can’t take any team for granted,” said the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel star. “No matter who they put in front of us, we gotta bring our game a hundred percent. We gotta treat every team like it’s a do-or-die game.”