JUNE Mar Fajardo doesn’t want to disappoint the basketball-crazy Filipinos when the country hosts the Manila leg of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament this July that he’s ready to suit up for Gilas Pilipinas even if he is not yet fully recovered from a knee injury he suffered recently.
While the giant player from Cebu is already playing for San Miguel in the ongoing Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup finals against Alaska, he said there remain some pain from time to time from the left knee he injured during Game 6 of the Beermen’s semifinal series against Rain or Shine.
But given the July 5-10 qualifier won’t be held until six months from now, Fajardo said he has enough time to fully recuperate and be ready for the task ahead.
“Malayo pa naman yung July, may time pa naman para mag-heal (‘yung injury),” said the 6-foot-10 San Miguel superstar.
Fajardo said he can’t wait to play in front of Filipino cage fans eager to see how Gilas fares against powerhouse teams from France, Canada, New Zealand, Turkey, and Senegal in the final qualifier for the basketball competitions of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
The big man out of University of Cebu has not played for the national team before a huge partisan crowd since the country hosted the 2013 edition of the FIBA Asia Men’s Championship when he played as third-string center behind naturalized player Marcus Douthit and Japeth Aguilar.
But he has come a long way since then, becoming the most dominant center in the pro league today. He is now expected to play a major role in Gilas Pilipinas’ quest to make it back to the Olympics after a 43-year absence.
“Looking forward to it (qualifier), siyempre home crowd dahil tayo ang host,” said Fajardo in his baritone voice.
After missing the first four games of the finals against the Aces, the two-time league MVP was back in action for Games Five and Six to help the Beermen tie the series at 3-3.
Fajardo averaged 14.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in the two games he played so far in the finals, where San Miguel now earns a shot at becoming the first team to win a championship after losing three straight games of the title series.
In the Beermen’s 100-89 win in Game Six, he already played 22 minutes and added an assist and a block, along with two steals.
Fajardo said he’s not blaming anyone for the latest injury he suffered, stressing that everything is part and parcel of an athlete’s life.
"Ganyan talaga ang injury, nangyayari yan,” said the humble pride of Pinamungahan, Cebu. “Hindi mo naman maiwasan 'yan, hindi mo naman kontrolado yan. “
And he vowed to be more cautious and stay healthy from here on if only to see action for Gilas in the qualifier and play in front of the Filipino home fans.
“Kailangan lang mag-stay healthy, tapos magpa-kundisyon,” he said.