Rajko Toroman: 'Gilas can't afford to be without Fajardo, Lassiter in Olympic qualifier
June Mar Fajardo has been hampered by a swollen knee. Jerome Ascano

FORMER national coach Rajko Toroman said Gilas Pilipinas can't afford to be without June Mar Fajardo, Marcio Lassiter and Paul Lee if it hopes to do well in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila this July.

Lee and big man Greg Slaughter are already out of the Gilas pool due to injuries, making it imperative for Fajardo and Lassiter to be in the Gilas team that will battle the likes of France and New Zealand in the July 5-10 showpiece at the Mall of Asia Arena.

However, both Fajardo and Lassiter skipped training last week due to a swollen knee and flu-like symptoms, respectively, although both are expected back soon.

“If their injuries are bad (it will be a blow), these three guys are very important for Gilas,” said Toroman, coach of the original Gilas side.  “If they are not playing, national team will lose a lot."

[See Almazan to join thinning Gilas pool as practice player]

The 6-10 Fajardo, according to Toroman, will be central to Gilas' plans when it battles teams like France, which has agile big men in the mold of Boris Diaw.

With Slaughter already out, Fajardo is needed more than ever to help Andray Blatche out, Toroman added.

It is the same with Lassiter, Toroman's former player in the original Gilas side who he said can open up the defense of opponents like no one can in the present pool.

“They will need Marcio. The team needs a steady shooter who can spread the defense of the opponent. You know how Marcio can explode from the three-point area anytime,” he said.

Toroman said Lee is a big loss for Gilas, saying the Rain or Shine star has the body and the game to take on the world's best guards.

“It is said that Paul can’t play, he has the body to bang against the big guards of the other teams. It is sad that it happened at the wrong time,” Toroman said.

“The Philippines will really have its hands full in the Olympic qualifier,” added the approachable coach who considers the Philippines as his second home.

And with just 38 days left before the Olympic qualifier, Toroman says Gilas fans have all the reasons to be alarmed over the spate of sudden injuries.

“It’s just a little over a month in front of Gilas. It’s quite alarming especially if you are a Gilas fan,” he said.

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