By Ivan Stewart Saldajeno

June Mar Fajardo is the current top vote-getter for the returning PBA All-Star Game. (Photo courtesy of PBA Images)

MANILA – June Mar Fajardo and Scottie Thompson are currently ahead in the PBA All-Star Game voting as the first partial results have been released.

Fajardo, San Miguel’s superstar center is currently number one as of Wednesday with 37,915 votes.

“Masayang-masaya ako na makasali uli ako sa (I’m so happy that I could join again in the) All-Stars,” Fajardo said when asked about his thoughts on the current balloting update after the Beermen beat the Blackwater Bossing, 105-86, later in the day at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig.

On the other hand, Thompson, Ginebra’s new superstar combo guard, is in close second with 37,759.

This year’s All-Star Game, the first in four years, will now have the top two players in the All-Star balloting, being the captains, forming their teams through a draft where they will choose from the other 22 top vote-getters just like how it is being done in the National Basketball Association.

This means Fajardo and Thompson could become the skippers for their respective teams come the March 12 exhibition match in Passi City, Iloilo province if they remain in the lead.

However, when asked about the new rules for forming the All-Star teams, Fajardo thinks it could lead to a letdown between friends.

“Kung pipili ako, baka magtampo yung iba (If I draft my All-Star teammates, the ones I would skip might get disappointed),” Fajardo said, although he added that the All-Star drafting is an exciting twist for him.

The other players in the Top 24 are Ginebra’s Japeth Aguilar, Jamie Malonzo, Christian Standhardinger, LA Tenorio, Stanley Pringle, and Jeremiah Gray, Magnolia’s Calvin Abueva, Paul Lee, and Mark Barroca, San Miguel’s CJ Perez, Terrence Romeo, and Marcio Lassiter, Rain Or Shine’s James Yap and Gabe Norwood, TNT’s Jayson Castro, RR Pogoy, Mikey Williams, and Calvin Oftana, Meralco’s Chris Newsome, NorthPort’s Arvin Tolentino, and NLEX’s Kevin Alas.

When asked about his draft preference, Fajardo said that he would love to bring fellow Beermen Perez, Romeo, and Lassiter to his team.

On the other hand, Gin King’s Tim Cone and Elasto Painter’s Yeng Guiao are on track to becoming the All-Star head coaches this year.

Cone is the runaway leader in the coaching race with 51,707, while Guiao is second with 22,705.

The All-Star captains will also get to choose who they want to coach in the traditionally mid-season classic.

However, Fajardo believes the coaches should form the teams instead of the captains.

“Dapat yung coaches na lang yung pipili ng mga players (The coaches should be the one who would draft the players instead),” Fajardo said.

In a separate balloting update, Malonzo and Gray are the top vote-getters for the Rookie-Sophomore-Junior Game.

Malonzo is number one with 41,933, while Gray is second with 35,248.

The other top vote-getters for the RSJ Game are Oftana, Tolentino, Williams, ROS’s Shaun Ildefonso, Gian Mamuyac, Anton Asistio, and Mike Nieto, Phoenix’s Tyler Tio and Encho Serrano, Meralco’s Aaron Black, Converge’s Justine Arana and Jerrick Balanza, Magnolia’s Jerrick Ahanmisi, Blackwater’s RK Ilagan, NLEX’s Brandon Rosser and Matt Nieto, Terrafirma’s Isaac Go, and NorthPort’s Joshua Munzon.

PBA fans have until Feb. 15 to cast their votes online through the league’s website or offline through balloting areas at the main entrance of the arenas during gameday. (PNA)