By Tito S. Talao
DUBAI — Giant-slayers, three of them, in fact, are out to end San Miguel Beer center June Mar Fajardo’s stranglehold of the Most Valuable Player award.
For sure, Commissioner’s Cup Best Player of the Conference Jayson Castro of TNT KaTropa, Governors’ Cup BPC choice Christian Standhardinger of NorthPort and top rookie CJ Perez of Columbian Dyip are welcome to try and deny the Big Fella.
The odds seem stacked against them though.
Owner of five MVPs in a row, the 6-foot-10 Fajardo, whose Grand Slam bid with the Beermen last season was torpedoed by Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, again holds the inside track in the race, having won back-to-back championships in 2019, including the revered Philippine Cup where he won BPC honors and where prodigious imports are off-limits.
Numbers-wise, Fajardo and Perez lead the pack, with the SMB star putting together statistical points average of 39.6 and the Columbian neophyte coming through with 33.47 SPs per game.
Perez led all comers in scoring, emerging as the league’s new scoring champ with 20.8 points. Matthew Wright was a close second with 18.89 followed by Fajardo (18.87).
NorthPort’s Sean Anthony (33.46), Ginebra’s Stanley Pringle (31.8) and TNT’s RR Pogoy (31.7) finished third, fourth and fifth, putting themselves in good position to make the Mythical Selections.
Ginebra’s Japeth Aguilar (29.9) came in at seventh, followed by Wright (29.0), Magnolia’s Ian Sangalang (28.7) and SMB’s Moala Tautuaa (27.5) to round out the Magic 10.
Others making the Top 25 are Troy Rosario (TNT), Scottie Thompson (Ginebra), Alex Cabagnot (SMB), Robert Bolick (NorthPort), Rashawn McCarthy (Columbian), Jeron Teng (Alaska), Chris Ross (SMB), Paul Lee (Magnolia), LA Tenorio (Ginebra), Poy Erram (NLEX), Chris Banchero (Magnolia), Arwind Santos (SMB) and Greg Slaughter (Ginebra).
As MVP contender, Perez is top favorite for the Rookie of the Year award, an achievement that would tie him with PBA great Benjie Paras who bagged both plums in 1989.
The Leo Awards, which also features the winners of the Most Improved Player, the Sportsmanship Award and All Defensive Team, will kick off the inaugural games on March 1 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. (With reports from the PBA Media Bureau)