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PBA: Injured Fajardo leads BPC race

June Mar Fajardo

by Waylon Galvez

Games Saturday (Mall of Asia Arena)
3:30 p.m. – Talk ’N Text vs Alaska
5:45 p.m. – Meralco vs Air21

Manila, Philippines – Despite missing two games with a knee injury, Petron Blaze’s June Mar Fajardo continues to lead the Statistical Points (SP) department for the Best Player of the Conference heading into the playoffs of the season-opening 2014 PLDT myDSL PBA Philippine Cup.

Through eight games in the elimination round of this all-Filipino conference, the 6-foot-10 Fajardo has accumulated 43.5 SPs as the sophomore center averages 15.5 points, a league-best 17.3 rebounds with 1.6 assists and 3 shot blocks.

However, Fajardo has missed the Boosters’ previous two games as they lost to Barangay Ginebra San Miguel (97-83) but won against defending three-time champion Talk ’N Text (105-91) to stay at second place with 8-2 win-loss record.

Fajardo, who sustained a strained MCL on his right knee last December 23 during a team practice session, is expected to return to action when Petron Blaze clashes with Barako Bull on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena.

Not far behind is Japeth Aguilar of the league-leading Kings with 41.2 SP.

Aguilar, the high-leaping 6-foot-9 forward of Ginebra averaged 19.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists and a conference-best 3.8 shot blocks through 10 games.

Aside from his thunderous slam dunks that usually end up in weekly top plays on TV, Aguilar also boasts of two highlight reels of buzzer-beating triples delivered against Talk ’N Text (97-95) last Dec. 8 and Meralco (83-82) last Saturday.

Petron Blaze forward Arwind Santos, the Most Valuable Player (MVP) last season, is currently at No. 3 with 37.3 SP, with averages of 16.9 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.7 shot blocks in 10 games.

Last season’s Philippine Cup BPC winner Jayson Castro of defending three-time champion Talk ’N Text, ranks fourth with 37.0 SP as he leads the league in scoring with 20.7 points while adding 5.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.0 steals.

Ginebra’s Greg Slaughter, this year’s top pick in the PBA Rookie Draft, is the only freshman in the Top 10 of the BPC derby. Slaughter has 15.4 points and 10.4 rebounds, with 2.1 shot blocks and has a total of 36.5 SP.

Aguilar and Slaughter’s teammate LA Tenorio is currently at seventh spot with 31.3 SP, averaging 10.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, a league-best 7.5 assists and 1.7 steals. He’s behind Globaport’s Jay Washington with 36.4 SP.

Completing the Top 10 in the BPC race are Sol Mercado of Globalport (30.3 SP), and Petron Blaze teammates Marcio Lassiter (29.9 SP) and Chris Lutz (28.8 SP). Interestingly at 12th spot in 40-year-old center Asi Taulava of Air21 with 27.6 SP as he averages 12.6 points and 13.0 rebounds in 10 games with the Express.

Taulava, Fajardo, Slaughter, Santos and Washington are the only players to average double-double (points/rebounds) so far this conference. The BPC award will be given during the finals series of the AFC tournament.

On the other hand, the 7-foot Slaughter enjoys a big advantage in the Rookie of the Year as Terrence Romeo of Globalport is running second with 23.8 SP, while Ian Sangalang, the No. 2 overall pick of San Mig Coffee, has 20.1 SP, followed by Raymond Almazan of Rain or Shine (17.8 SP) and Globalport’s Justine Chua (14.6 SP).