WHILE the expectation is for Marcus Douthit to fill in the void left by Andray Blatche, the naturalized player said he won't be surprised if he ends up as a back-up to the vastly improved June Mar Fajardo in the Asian Games.
“Hopefully, I can come in and fill that void (left by Blatche) from the start, but I can be a backup to June Mar,” Douthit said with a smile on Saturday during the Incheon-bound team's first practice since the Fiba World Cup.
Talk has been focused on the rush to get Douthit into game shape after the Incheon Asian Games Organizing Committee (Iagoc) barred Blatche from reinforcing Gilas owing to a residency requirement for naturalized citizens.
But the 6-foot-10 Douthit noted that lost in all the discussion is Fajardo’s solid performance in the Philippines’ recent Fiba World Cup campaign where the Cebuano big man finally came of age.
“June Mar definitely, he played very well (in the World Cup). A lot of teams have seen the way he played, and they got to respect his game now,” he said.
Fajardo, who struggled to play international basketball in last year’s Fiba Asia men’s championship and in the Fiba Asia Cup in Wuhan, China, last July, emerged from his shell in the world championships.
Now Asian rivals can no longer take Fajardo for granted, Douthit said.
“The (other Asian) teams will have to scout June Mar now because I’m quite sure in the past, they won’t worry too much about him, but now, he pretty showed he can play with the best big men in the world,” added the 34-year-old Douthit.
“I’m quite sure that teams will be looking out for him.”
Fajardo, the 6-foot-10 reigning PBA MVP, averaged 6.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in a 13-minute back-up role to Blatche in the Fiba World Cup.
The former University if Cebu star center saved his best for last when he finished with 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds in Gilas’ pulsating 81-79 overtime victory over Senegal to close out its Fiba World Cup campaign on a winning note.
Douthit also had no such worries about his form, saying the week before Gilas leaves for Incheon, South Korea on September 20 should be enough for him to get into game shape.
The Philippines won its last Asian Games gold medal in 1962 behind a men’s team bannered by cage legends Caloy Loyzaga, Rhoel Nadurata, Kurt Bachmann and Eddie Pacheco.