SAN Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria is mighty glad June Mar Fajardo has quickly blended into the Beermen’s system after months with Gilas Pilipinas.
One big game was enough for him to stamp his mark.
The Beermen’s big man came up with monster numbers in a 79-77 victory over Barangay Ginebra to earn an Accel-PBA Press Corps Player of the Week citation for the period of Nov. 10-16.
[See Fajardo has final say in duel against Slaughter as San Miguel Beer holds off Ginebra comeback]
It was San Miguel’s only game during that period, but Fajardo’s performance was enough to earn the citation.
The 6-foot-10 Fajardo has actually been doing well since the start of the season and has averaged monster numbers with 16.3 points, 13.3 rebounds and a league-best 3.1 blocks per contest.
The 25-year-old Fajardo scored over Ginebra big man Greg Slaughter, which broke the 72-all count with 24.1 seconds left, before sealing the tension-filled game with a free throw, enabling the Beermen to score their fifth win in six games.
The reigning PBA Most Valuable Player finished with 21 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks in besting Slaughter, his long-time Cebuano college rival, who didn’t do bad in their first matchup this season, finishing with 16 points and 18 boards.
“June Mar has faced some of the top players of the world while playing for Gilas, and so far, even though di namin siya nakasama nung Day One ng (offseason) preparations namin, he has been comfortable na sa ginagawa namin,” Austria told Spin.ph on Monday.
Fajardo had less than two weeks to re-integrate with San Miguel since playing as naturalized player Andray Blatche’s back-up in the Fiba World Cup in Spain before playing behind Marcus Douthit in the Incheon Asian Games.
Austria said Fajardo never complained despite having to play heavy minutes this season due to injuries sustained by back-up center Doug Kramer (ankle) and Rico Maierhofer (knee).
“Almost all our plays kasi, June Mar is involved and I should say, he is very important sa team, though again, di niya naman kayang ipanalo lang ang laro on his own,” explained the 56-year-old San Miguel mentor, whose team currently is in second spot at 5-1, behind unbeaten Alaska.
“Of course, dapat ima-manage natin ang minutes ni June Mar, pero sa past games, we can’t afford na i-upo siya kasi nga matatalo kami. Mabuti na lang maganda ang tandem nila ni Arwind (Santos),” he added.
Since handling Fajardo three years ago in the Asean Basketball League, where he once served as an assistant with San Miguel Beer, Austria noted that the former University of Cebu slotman has made giant strides in his game.
“Iba na siya sa decision-making niya. Alam niya na ang advantage niya talaga is going to the basket,” said Austria, who succeeded Todd Purves, his former coaching rival in the ABL.