SHOCK has turned into hope for the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) as it monitors the injury of June Mar Fajardo, who it hopes will serve as one of the vital cogs in the Gilas Pilipinas team that will take part in the Olympic wildcard qualifiers in July.
SBP deputy director for international affairs and Gilas manager Butch Antonio admitted he felt shock and apprehension upon hearing about the knee injury suffered by the 6-10 Cebuano slotman during Game 6 of San Miguel's semifinal series against Rain or Shine in the PBA Philippine Cup.
“Oo naman, (devastated) kami. Sabi ko nga, kami we don’t wish that it will happen to any player, regardless whether Gilas siya o hindi. Ayaw mo 'yun mangyari. That’s the last thing you want these athletes to go through,” Antonio told Spin.ph on Monday.
Antonio stressed Fajardo is one of the ‘best big men in the PBA today’ and therefore a major part of the Gilas team that will attempt to punch a ticket to the Rio Olympics in the July qualifiers.
To hear that Fajardo's injury may not be as bad as feared has eased Antonio's concerns.
“He will be a very vital cog in the endeavor to try to make it to Rio (Olympics). Hindi ko pa nababasa kung ano 'yung eksaktong (injury), but I heard na, ‘wala, that it is good’. And I am very much thankful na walang nangyari,” he said.
With San Miguel hinting that Fajardo may be healthy enough to play in the ongoing PBA Finals, Antonio was asked if he also expects the agile big man to play for the national team in the coming Fiba Olympic qualifiers.
“(If ever makalaro siya sa finals), I guess that’s a good sign. (Hopefully makalaro siya sa finals),” said the Gilas manager of Fajardo, who failed to suit up for the national team in last year's Fiba-Asia championship owing to plantar fasciitis injuries on both feet.
“Pero malayo pa naman yung Fiba qualifiers, it’s seven months away. If he needs to rest, I hope that his recovery will be quick, and makakasali siya agad,” said Antonio. “So I am hoping, sana kung makapagpahinga siya at mabigyan siya ng go-signal (ng San Miguel management), then let’s go!”
Antonio said Gilas will need all the help it can get in the tough qualifiers.
With the top three runners-up from the Africa, Americas and Asia zones, five more teams from Europe and one from Oceania competing in the three qualifiers, Antonio said Gilas will need someone like Fajardo to match up against much taller, higher-ranked opponents.
“These are the second, third fourth placers of each Fiba zone, ang lalakas ng mga kalaban dyan,” he said.
Listen to interview with Butch Antonio: