MANILA, Philippines – After years of being pitted against June Mar Fajardo, Greg Slaughter admitted it is a "dream come true" to play with the reigning four-time PBA Most Valuable Player in Gilas Pilipinas.
The two towering centers will see action together for the Philippines for the first time as Gilas tangles with Kazakhstan at the start of the fifth window of the World Cup qualifiers on Friday, November 30.
From the collegiate scene to the PBA, the two have always been considered fierce rivals, so it will be a fresh scene for Slaughter and Fajardo to share the floor, especially while donning the national colors.
"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 told reporters after the team wrapped up practice at the Mall of Asia Arena on the eve of the Kazakhstan game.
Slaughter faced Fajardo in multiple battles in the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc. a decade ago and brought their duels to the PBA as stars for Barangay Ginebra and San Miguel, respectively.
"Just to imagine 11 years later that we'd be playing together side-by-side on the national team, it's like a dream come true. I'm really excited and I hope we can make our country proud."
The Slaughter-Fajardo frontcourt duo will not be the only storyline for the seven-footer as he debuts for Gilas Pilipinas in the World Cup qualifiers.
For years, Slaughter had expressed his desire to play for the Philippines but was hindered by recurring injuries and eligibility issues as a Filipino-American.
It was only in September that he was cleared by FIBA to play as a local for the country. However, an ankle injury prevented him from suiting up in the fourth window.
Finally healthy, he looks forward to showcasing his wares.
"I'm excited, it's always such a big opportunity and to see how far the national team has come over the past 8 years," Slaughter added.
"There's a lot of new players, there's still some old ones, but I'm just excited to be representing the country again." – Rappler.com
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.