Leo Austria glad to keep June Mar Fajardo fresh for bigger battles ahead for both SMB, Gilas
June Mar Fajardo only played less than eight minutes in his return to SMB after his Fiba Asia Cup stint. Jaime Campos

SAN Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria appears to be hitting two birds with one stone by managing June Mar Fajardo’s minutes early in the PBA Governors’ Cup.

By limiting Fajardo to just seven minutes and 30 seconds in SMB’s 115-112 win over Globalport on Friday night, Austria is keeping his prized slotman fresh not only deep into conference and the Beermen’s grand slam bid, but until he wears the country’s colors again in the Fiba World Cup qualifiers in November.

“Hindi namin ginamble dahil this is a long season for him,” Austria said of Fajardo, who’ still recovering from a calf injury. “We don’t want to aggravate his injury, dahil after this conference, alam naman natin na may Gilas na naman.”

Fajardo still contributed in his limited time as he scored four points after making his two shots, and grabbed one board against committing one turnover.

Austria, though, felt Fajardo’s decision to play the last three games in the Fiba Asia after initially being ruled out affected his slow recovery in his return to his mother club.

“He’s doing what the team wanted him to do in Lebanon. Nag-sacrifice siya,” Austria said. “At talaga namang makikita niyo kanina na he’s not in the game, because he’s thinking of his injuries.”

“But I’m happy because in spite of that, we’re able to snatch the win,” he was quick to add as Arwind Santos stepped up and conspired with the rest of the SMB stars against the Batang Pier.

Fajardo reiterated he still needs to continue his strengthening regimen before fully getting back in harness.

“Kailangan pa ng strengthening,” Fajardo said. “’Di ko pa alam (kailan ako makakabalik ng tuluyan), pero maglalaro naman ako.”

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