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Fajardo struggling with Chot’s system

by Tito S. Talao

Norbert Torres guarding Junmar Fajardo

Norbert Torres guarding Junmar Fajardo

CEBU CITY – Gilas Pilipinas center June Mar Fajardo appears lost in the intricacies of the system called Dribble Drive Offense but is determined to find his way around the maze.

The predicament came to fore when PBA Visayas All-Star coach Tim Cone, in a conversation with Jorge Gallent, assistant coach at San Miguel Beer, said he observed during one long stretch in the game between Gilas Pilipinas and the Mindanao All-Stars in Cagayan de Oro last week that Fajardo never got to touch the ball after several transition plays.

“Maybe it was seven or eight transitions and June Mar didn’t get to touch the ball, and he was running up and down,” said Cone on the eve of the Gilas-Visayas selection game at Hoops Dome in Lapu-Lapu City Sunday that would wrap up the PBA’s annual All-Star celebration.

Developed by former Pepperdine coach Vance Walberg and popularized by John Calipari at University of Memphis, the dribble drive motion calls for the offense to spread its players and for the point guard to attack the gaps with the option of going straight to the basket for a layup or dunk or to pass off to the perimeter if the defense collapses on him.

This is the offense Gilas playmaker Jayson Castro thrives in and is most effective and comfortable with. It was also crucial in helping the 2013 Gilas squad, also under Chot Reyes, beat Asian nemesis South Korea during the FIBA Asia Championship semifinals at the Mall of Asia Arena that advanced the Philippines after decades to the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Seville, Spain.

Cone’s sharp eyes may have raised a question though – something he himself dispelled.

Asked if he doesn’t find it counter-productive to install an offensive system where you’re best guy would be starved of ball possession, Cone suggested Fajardo may not be Gilas’ most important player in international play.

“He may be the most dominant here, but against China and Korea where they have really big players, Gilas may have to rely on some other means to beat them,” Cone said, subtly implying it is against FIBA opponents where the dribble drive would rise to the challenge.

The subject concerned agrees.

During lunch at Cabalen, seated by himself, Fajardo concurred some adjustments may be necessary.

Does the system need to be tweaked a bit then to accommodate him?

“Hindi, ako dapat ang mag-adjust sa dribble drive at magagawa ko yon,” he said.

NOTES: Tim Cone says 7-foot center Gregg Slaughter may be back from knee injury next conference, with Barangay Ginebra San Miguel defending the Governors’ Cup crown…Kings forward Chris Ellis, Cone said, may have it in his mind that he’s Michael Jordan. “He ought to realize though that it would be more than enough for him to be Scottie Pippen,” Cone added…Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director Sonny Barrios flew in with the Gilas team to lend support for the Nationals… GlobalPort star Terrence Romeo is slowly recovering from a mild case of amoebiasis that has slowed him down the past few days…TNT KaTropa team manager Virgil Villavicencio is seeking to add one or two players to their lineup in lieu of the three (Jayson Castro, RR Pogoy and Troy Rosario) who got named to the Gilas team…NLEX’s Asi Taulava liked ‘dinuguan’ so much during lunch that he helped himself to a cupful of second serving… Andray Blatche is arriving tonight from Atlanta, according to SBP’s Butch Antonio.