TAIPEI - A top basketball offiicial feels it is not too late for June Mar Fajardo to rejoin Gilas Pilipinas, expressing hope that the two-time PBA MVP to reinforce the national team bound for the Fiba Asia Championship this month.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) vice-chairman Ricky Vargas said he never once doubted Fajardo's commitment to Gilas and added 'it is a fact' that the only hurdle keeping the San Miguel big man from joining the current pool is the injuries he suffered during the last PBA season.
“I really believe that he is injured. That's a fact,” Vargas said on Tuesday morning. “We are just waiting for the time that his injury heals. Maybe, if he is well again (physically), puede na ulit tayo makiusap sa kanya(we can ask Fajardo again) to rejoin the team.”
That's the reason Vargas and former PBA chairman Pato Gregorio said they are keeping the door open for Fajardo up until the deadline for the submission of the final lineups for the Fiba Asia championship set in Changsha, China, which falls on September 8.
“Dahil kailangang-kailangan sya ng bayan, Gilas is willing to wait for him,” Vargas said.
National coach Tab Baldwin had previously named Fajardo as the only shoo-in for Gilas 3.0, but the 6-10 Cebuano big man has begged off citing plantar fasciitis on both feet which he said he had endured during the latter part of the PBA season.
After a long rest, Vargas is hopeful Fajardo can still change his mind.
Fajardo's absence is clearly being felt by Gilas, which has been outrebounded by both Chinese-Taipei (43-47) and South Korea (34-43) in its first two games in the 37th Jones Cup with a center rotation made up of Asi Taulava, Sonny Thoss, and Fil-Tongan Moala Tautuaa.
With Blatche also out, Thoss rested and Taulava and Tautuaa getting into foul trouble in a 70-82 loss to Korea on Monday night, Baldwin had to make do during certain stretches with a frontline manned by Marc Pingris, Ranidel de Ocampo and Aldrech Ramos.
Even Baldwin had previously set a deadline for holdouts rejoining the team but has not entirely closed the door on changes to his lineup, saying 'nothing is safe to assume' as far as the Gilas lineup is concerned.
Now Vargas is hoping Fajardo can fill the obvious gap.