A LOT has changed from the time June Mar Fajardo last saw action for Gilas Pilipinas in a tournament overseas.
From a rookie seen as no more than a project when he joined Gilas in the lead-up to the Fiba Asia championships in Manila in August, the 6-10 Cebuano has blossomed into a full-fledged star for San Miguel Beer who is likely to be a PBA MVP before the season is over.
But Fajardo made it clear he won't mind playing his usual back-up role with Gilas Pilipinas, which starts practice next Tuesday as it prepares for the Fiba World Cup in Spain set August 30 to September 14 and the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea from September 19 to October 4.
“Alam ko naman ang role ko sa Gilas. Support ako dun,” Fajardo told Spin.ph, referring to his back-up role behind naturalized players Marcus Douthit and Brooklyn Nets center Andray Blatche.
“Maga-adjust na lang ako dun sa Gilas,” he added.
The San Miguel star, though, can expect a bigger role from coach Chot Reyes after posting career-best numbers of 16.7 points, 14.1 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.3 assists this season while blossoming for the Beermen under active consultant Todd Purves and head coach Biboy Ravanes.
As it is, Fajardo is leading the statistical race for this season’s Most Valuable Player award and will likely win his second career Best Player of the Conference award before the end of the Governors Cup.
But the vastly improved big man said he is looking at the Gilas experience as a chance to learn from Douthit, the national team’s naturalized player for more than three years, as well as Blatche, the Brooklyn Nets center who was recently granted his Filipino citizenship.
Blatche and Douthit are now naturalized Filipinos, although only one of them will be allowed to play in the world championships and Asian Games according to international rules.
“Alam ko marami akong matututunan sa kanila. Eh sana pagbalik ko rin ng PBA, madala ko yun sa team ko,” added the 24-year-old Cebuano big man.
Gilas is set to leave for Wuhan, China on July 9 for this year’s Fiba Asia Cup as part of the national squad’s preparation for the Fiba World Cup and Asian Games.