Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes ruled out the possibility of replacing June Mar Fajardo for the FIBA Asia Cup in Beirut, Lebanon after the San Miguel Beermen star was diagnosed with a strained right calf during a recent game in the PBA Governors’ Cup.
Though Fajardo maintained a slim chance of donning the Gilas uniform for the tournament slated Aug. 8 to 20 in the Lebanese capital, Reyes has already set his sights on fielding a team with the three-time reigning PBA Most Valuable Player sitting from the sidelines.
“If he can’t play, then we’ll go with 11,” Reyes said after yesterday’s practice at the Moro Lorenzo gym inside the Ateneo campus – the team’s last before leaving for Beirut today.
“If he can play then that’s a bonus, but we’re preparing as if he can’t because it’s more difficult na maglabas-pasok, hindi naman alam. So we’re preparing as if he’s not going to be there, and I think that’s the best way to handle this,” he added.
The Fajardo situation left Gilas with plenty of dilemma ahead of its first game on Aug. 9 against China, a team traditionally known for its size.
Gilas is already without naturalized player Andray Blatche, and only has Fil-German Christian Standhardinger, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel’s Japeth Aguilar and Rain or Shine’s Raymond Almazan available to protect the middle.
Fajardo will still join Gilas in Lebanon, thus raising the prospect of playing at least a few minutes in the FIBA tilt. While he was given the green light by San Miguel management to make a decision, the 6-foot-10 gentle giant is also thinking of the long term.
“May mga punit sa muscle, tapos sabi ng doctor i-pahinga ko daw kasi ito raw yung nangyari kina Danny Seigle,” said Fajardo, perhaps referring to Seigle’s injury in 2002 when he tore his Achilles tendon while preparing for the Philippines’ campaign in the Busan Asian Games.
“Kung hindi ko daw ipahinga, nakasalalay yung career mo, kasi pag pinilit daw may chance na di lang yung muscle mapuputol, pati daw yung ligaments. Pag ligaments daw ooperahan,” he added. (Jonas Terrado)