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Big hole to fill for SMB

When league leader San Miguel Beer resumes its campaign in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup, coach Leo Austria will have one big missing piece on his roster.

That is June Mar Fajardo, the 6-foot-10 reigning three-time MVP.

Like the other 10 PBA players named to Gilas Pilipinas, Fajardo was plucked out from the lineup of his mother team as the national team prepares for next week’s Southeast Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) Championship at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

“It’s big that we’ll play minus June Mar,” said Austria yesterday after the team’s practice session at the Acropolis gym in Quezon City. “Lalo sa stage na ‘to na crucial ang every game.”

“Alam mo naman na yung system ng San Miguel, malaking part nun e umiikot kay June Mar because he attracts double team so nao-open talaga ang ibang players,” added Austria.

SMB sports a perfect 5-0 win-loss card – the only unbeaten team in the mid-season conference. Through fives games, Fajardo has averaged 14 points and nearly eight rebounds.

Without the fifth year center Fajardo, Austria said he would be relying on his supporting post players in 6-foot-8 Yancy de Ocampo, 6-foot-6 Jayr Reyes and even 6-foot-8 Arnold Van Opstal.

Of course, the team has import Charles Rhodes, who stands 6-foot-8 and averages 23.20 points, 11.20 rebounds, 1.40 assists and 1.60 assists in helping San Miguel get a good start this conference.

That start, Austria said, isn’t a guarantee that things will be easy from hereon, however, as the playoff race gets tougher with every team aiming to improve their chances to move to the quarterfinal round.

“That’s what I emphasized during our last practice session, 5-0 is not a guarantee. We still need to work hard, probably harder because other teams are also looking to improve,” said Austria.

“We have not peaked yet, that’s what I believe. Because hindi pa namin nakukuha yung momentum namin talaga e.
Nagkaroon ng Holy Week break, then andyan yung All-Star Week, and then magkakaroon ng SEABA. So paputol-putol kung ano man yung nauumpisahan namin.”

“Good thing is that our last three wins came in just a week, actually six days lang. After that All-Star break na.

We’ll play one game without June Mar, so after nun balik siya sa team, and hopefully tuluy tuloy na kami,” added Austria.