WITH Andray Blatche skipping the Fiba Asia Cup, June Mar Fajardo is expected to carry much of the load down low for Gilas Pilipinas in the August 8-20 showcase in Lebanon.
The reigning three-time MVP is aware he has big shoes to fill, but said it will take teamwork - not the work of one man - for Gilas to do well in the Asian championships in Blatche's absence.
"Syempre mahirap kasi mahirap i-fill yung sapatos ni Andray. Siya ang go-to guy natin sa Gilas," said the 6-10 giant after the team bound for Beirut, Lebanon wrapped up its first practice on Thursday.
"Pero tingin ko kaya naman basta meron kaming teamwork at tiwala sa sarili, sa isa’t-isa, at kay coach Chot (Reyes)," said the San Miguel Beermen star.
"Di ko alam kung ano ang maa-achieve pero tingin ko naman, may mararating tayo basta’t may teamwork," he continued.
As it is, the soft-spoken slotman admitted he is still adjusting to the new role as one of the leaders of Gilas Pilipinas, which is bunched with powerhouse China, Iraq, and Qatar in the group phase.
"Nahihiya din ako sa kanila. Di naman ako yung tipo na vocal. Nakikinig lang din ako eh," he said.
He has no choice.
With Marc Pingris, Jimmy Alapag and Ranidel de Ocampo gone, the burden of leadership now falls on guys like Fajardo, Jayson Castro, and the recalled Gabe Norwood.
Other members of the team are Fil-German Christian Standhardinger, Japeth Aguilar, Raymond Almazan, Terrence Romeo, Calvin Abueva, Jio Jalalon, Roger Pogoy, Matthew Wright, and Carl Bryan Cruz.
Standhardinger takes Blatche's place as Gilas' naturalized player.