SAN Miguel coach Leo Austria was hardly surprised by June Mar Fajardo’s stellar showing for Gilas Pilipinas in the Fiba World Cup qualifiers, expecting his prized ward to sustain his fine play in international play so long as he keeps getting the ball down low.
Stepping up for a struggling Andray Blatche, Fajardo put up his best numbers for the national team on Monday when he registered 17 points, eight rebounds, two assists, and two blocks in over 23 minutes in the 90-83 win over Chinese Taipei.
Asked what Fajardo’s solid showing for Gilas meant to SMB, Austria said he was glad to see his player bring his splendid play with the Beermen to the national team.
“It’s given na eh,” Austria told SPIN.ph after practice on Wednesday. “Ang dapat mangyari, 'yung ginagawa niya sa San Miguel, ma-translate niya sa Gilas, dahil hindi mo makikita yung laro niya sa San Miguel na nakikita sa Gilas eh.”
“He should have (a more prominent role with Gilas),” he added. “He’s not a four-time MVP kung wala siya nun eh. it’s about time na i-exploit kung ano man ang meron siyang advantage.”
Austria, however, admitted the 6-foot-10 Fajardo still needs to work on his agility to challenge quicker big men who can stretch the floor.
“Defensively, alam naman nating hindi siya agile compared to the big men of the other teams,” Austria said. “But offensively, definitely he could help the team.”
“He should give time to develop that skill,” he added. “Kailangan i-visualize niya. Weakness niya against big men in the international stage. But locally, kaya niya eh any big man dito eh.”
And now that Fajardo is back in the local league, that will only make him more unstoppable, said SMB teammate Chris Ross.
“It’s big for June Mar, just playing on that stage, just for him, mentally, for him to know that he can dominate on the international stage like that as well,” Ross said. “He’s out there moving well, he looks trimmed down. I saw a lot of positives for him.”
“The Japan game, he really didn’t get a lot of touches – that’s one thing with Gilas, he’s not the focal point of the offense per se like he is with us. But when he does get the touches, he can do some things for them,” he added.
Ross warned the rest of the league’s big men to watch out for Fajardo.
“He’s always excited to play for Gilas, but every time he comes from Gilas, he always adds something to his game, and he looks like he’s just getting better and better all the time,” Ross said. “That’s going to help us out tremendously.”