PBA Philippine Cup

NLEX rewards unheralded Dominick Fajardo with salary upgrade for steady play

Delfin Dioquino

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NLEX rewards unheralded Dominick Fajardo with salary upgrade for steady play

SHOT. Dominick Fajardo in action for the NLEX Road Warriors in the 2024 PBA Philippine Cup.

PBA Images

Taking an unlikely path to the PBA, rookie Dominick Fajardo worked as an NLEX employee, serving as a security crew for the tollways company before getting discovered by the Road Warriors

MANILA, Philippines – Dominick Fajardo is just as pivotal to the NLEX Road Warriors’ success in the PBA Philippine Cup as his more acclaimed teammates.

So the Road Warriors gave the unheralded rookie a well-deserved salary upgrade after he helped NLEX clinch its fourth straight victory in the All-Filipino tournament by way of an 87-74 win over Magnolia on Saturday, April 6.

Fajardo finished with 6 points, 6 rebounds, and 1 block as the Road Warriors improved to 5-1.

“They said I’m playing well so the NLEX management and the bosses rewarded me. They adjusted my salary,” Fajardo said in Filipino.

“I need to double my effort and hard work in practices and in games because I’m now well-compensated.”

Unlikely path to the PBA

Fajardo worked as an NLEX employee before joining the Road Warriors in the PBA, serving as a security crew for the tollways company.

An MVP in the Universities and Colleges Basketball League, the Bulacan State University product still found time for the sport as he saw action in the MVP Olympics, a tournament for companies owned by tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan.

There, the Road Warriors discovered Fajardo and tapped him for their PBA 3×3 team, the Cavitex Braves.

Fajardo, who is considered undersized for the position he plays as a six-foot forward, admitted he never imagined reaching the PBA considering the Braves only brought him in as a last-minute replacement for David Murrell.

“It was only because of an emergency why I got into 3×3. I just continued to play well there, and coach probably saw my potential,” said Fajardo.

But Fajardo exceeded expectations as he helped Cavitex win multiple leg titles.

His exploits in the PBA 3×3 paved the way for NLEX to include Fajardo in its lineup for the PBA On Tour, a series of exhibition games during the offseason.

Fajardo once again impressed and averaged in double-figure scoring, taking advantage of the playing time given to him by head coach Frankie Lim.

Convinced he is ripe for the PBA, Fajardo threw his name in the 2023 draft, and the Road Warriors snagged him in the third round as the 30th pick.

“He is so hungry to learn. He wants people to teach him. He is so humble to work on his game,” said NLEX team manager Larry Fonacier. “That is the kind of character that we want here at NLEX.”

“Just looking at his history from where he began to where he is now finishing games and playing a crucial role in our team, I think it is just fair that we give him an increase midseason.”

Full-time athlete

After juggling his corporate job and his professional basketball career throughout his PBA 3×3 and PBA on Tour stints up to his first conference in the league, Fajardo is now a full-time athlete.

Being able to focus solely on basketball has worked wonders for Fajardo as he averages 7 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1 block.

His best game came in a 103-97 win over Blackwater last March 13, where Fajardo put up a season-high 14 points on top of 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks.

“I’m really happy because I’m able to focus on cutting down weight. I can focus on my skills. And I can recover longer because I do not have to go work after practice,” Fajardo said.

His contract set to expire at the end of the year, Fajardo said he wants to remain with the Road Warriors as long as they continue to acquire his services.

“I earn more as a player compared to being an employee. I want to stay here in the long run so I can save money,” Fajardo said. – Rappler.com

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Delfin Dioquino

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.