MANILA, Philippines - Petron import Nick Fazekas is arriving with NBA Hall of Famer Alex English in two or three weeks to reinforce the Blaze Boosters in the PBA Fiesta Conference starting Feb. 10. English was recently in town for a week on Petron’s invitation and will return to join the squad as a skills coach.
Fazekas, 26, comes with impressive credentials. The 6-11, 240-pound center was the Dallas Mavericks’ second round pick in the 2007 NBA draft after leading the University of Nevada at Reno varsity to four straight NCAA Tournament appearances with an overall record of 106-27. He averaged 18.8 points and 9.6 rebounds in 131 collegiate games with the Wolf Pack.
Fazekas, who is of Hungarian descent, is in the elite roster of varsity players with over 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in their careers, joining stars like Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Julius Erving, Oscar Robertson and Larry Bird. He will become the sixth PBA import in the cast after Joe Binion, Harry Kelly, Daren Queenan, Byron Houston and Arizona Reid.
Although a dominant center, Fazekas gained a reputation as a team player at Nevada where a teammate was recent Manila visitor JaVale McGee. He never cared about individual honors and set as a priority the varsity’s goals. “That’s what it’s all about as a player,” said Fazekas at the height of his NCAA career. “To see how you match up against the nation’s best. Our team is young but that could be a good thing. Sometimes, when you’re young, you don’t know any better. We want to do well in the regular season and hopefully, that will lead to good things in the post-season.”
Petron coach Ato Agustin hopes Fazekas’ attitude will translate into a championship conference for the Boosters. Nevada coach Mark Fox said Fazekas’ maturity was a factor in bringing the Wolf Pack to the NCAA Tournament four years in a row. Fazekas was recommended by agent Paul Kevin who also represents Fil-Am Chris Banchero, a mainstay on San Miguel’s ABL squad.
Fazekas will be only the 27th white import to play in the PBA since 1975. The last two were Alex Compton and Jason Keep who both played for Welcoat in the 2007-08 Fiesta Conference. The San Miguel franchise had previously recruited four white imports – Steve Smith (San Miguel Beer, 1975), Mike Rozenski (Royal Tru-Orange, 1977), Frank Gugliotta (Royal Tru-Orange, 1978) and Chris Burgess (San Miguel Beer, 2004-05).
Fazekas led Ralston Valley High School to the Class 4A state championship in Colorado in 2002-03, averaging 26.4 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.9 blocked shots. He gained international experience playing with the US Under-21 team at the FIBA World Championships in Argentina in 2005.
In four years with the Nevada varsity, Fazekas developed a deadly touch from three-point distance, expanding his offensive repertoire. He knocked down 116-of-340 triples for a .341 clip in his Wolf Pack career. His overall field goal mark was 53 percent. Fazekas was thrice named Player of the Year in the Western Athletic Conference.
In the NBA, Fazekas played 26 games for Dallas and the Los Angeles Clippers in 2007-08. He went on to suit up in Belgium and France before averaging 14.6 points for the Reno Bighorns in the NBA D-League this season.
Fazekas’ father Joe, a 6-10 center, played varsity basketball at Wyoming and Idaho State. His grandfather Albert was a freedom fighter in the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and escaped from a Soviet-controlled prison in Hungary by setting himself on fire as a diversion. Fazekas once said he is willing to play for the Hungarian national team.
The Fiesta Conference will allow each team to recruit an import of unlimited height. - By Joaquin Henson