JUNE MAR Fajardo admitted feeling miserable during the recent Fiba Asia Cup as he struggled against taller, stronger and quicker slotmen, and acknowledges he needs to improve quickly if he hopes to contribute to Gilas Pilipinas’ stints in the Fiba World Cup and Asian Games.
A dominant big man and the reigning MVP in the PBA, Fajardo looked average against Hamed Haddadi of Iran and even some of China’s young and upcoming centers, logging just a little over 10 minutes in six games in the Wuhan showpiece.
“Oo, ang tatangkad nila. Eh si Hamed Haddadi, mabigat, magaling saka malaki talaga. Tapos yung mga sa China ang tatangkad din,” Fajardo told Spin.ph before joining Gilas Pilipinas’ practice on Monday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Fajardo had no answer to Haddadi’s size and length in the brief moment he tussled with the NBA veteran while covering for the foul-troubled Marcus Douthit during the first half of Gilas’ 55-76 semifinal loss to Iran.
“Ang Iran, grabeng team iyan. Sobrang lakas nila kasi may Haddadi na, magagaling pa ang mga players nila sa wings,” noted the 24-year-old former top PBA rookie pick.
The 6-foot-10 Fajardo, named MVP in just his second season in the PBA, acknowledged that competition in the domestic pro league is completely different from Fiba-sanctioned tournaments - the reason he will have to keep working on his game.
“Iba kasi ang tawagan sa PBA saka sa Fiba. Kaya ako, kailangan ko talaga mag-improve. Yung offense puwede naman mag-contribute pero kailangan sa defense maka-contribute din ako, dun ako magfo-focus kasi yun ang walang off night,” added the young star center of San Miguel Beer.
Fajardo and the Gilas squad are set to play two exhibition games against the visiting NBA stars on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The youthful Gilas backup center hopes he could learn a thing or two from the NBA stars led by former NBA slam dunk king Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs star forward Kawhi Leonard and the Indiana Pacers’ Paul George.