PROMISING rookie big man June Mar Fajardo realized he still has tons of work to do for him to become an asset with the national team shortly after playing his first game with Gilas Pilipinas opposite foreign competition.
Ranged against Shanghai Sharks behemoth Zhang Zhaoxu during the Philippines-China Goodwill Games on Monday night, the 24-year-old big man had his hands full playing on both ends of the floor of an 80-72 win over the visiting Chinese squad at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“Medyo mahirap din, malaki din kasi siya,” Fajardo told Spin.ph, referring to Zhaoxu, who led the Chinese professional squad with 17 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocked shots in a losing cause.
Fajardo managed to finish with 11 points, although the top pick overall in last year's PBA draft found two of his shots underneath swatted away by Zhang, who suited up for the University of California-Berkeley a few years ago.
Still, Gilas coach Chot Reyes said those blocked shots will make not only Fajardo but also fellow big men Japeth Aguilar and Greg Slaughter a lot better down the road.
“Ilang supalpal ba inabot namin? But that was important kasi si June Mar di nakakaramdam ng supalpal sa PBA eh. Si Japeth da-dunk na lang nasupalpal pa. Si Gabe (Norwood) da-dunk nasupalpal din. But that will help them grow as players,” said the multi-titled coach after the game.
Following his inside duel with Zhang, Fajardo vowed to improve on his game even more as he steels himself for the tougher battles ahead, especially his stint with Gilas in the coming FIBA-Asia Men’s Basketball Championship.
“Kailangan ko lang improve `yung shooting ko, saka `yung quickness pa, though naging malaking tulong si (Marcus) Douthit sa akin,” he added.
The native of Pinamungahan, Cebu said he’s thrilled to join Gilas Pilipinas’ two-week training camp in Lithuania early next month, which is part of the national team’s buildup for FIBA-World Championship qualifier this August.
The top three teams in the FIBA-Asia showpiece will earn slots to the 2014 World Championships in Spain.