Tab Baldwin rues Fajardo absence: 'Gilas can’t replace what he brings to the team'
Gilas coach Tab Baldwin gathers his players after a morning practice. Jaime Campos

GILAS Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin rued the likely unavailability of June Mar Fajardo for the national pool of players fighting for spots for the squad bound for the 2015 Fiba Asia Championship in China next month.

Fajardo, part of the 16-man pool made available by the PBA to the Gilas program, on Wednesday all but ruled himself out of national duty owing to a painful plantar fasciitis injury in an interview with the Inquirer.

Although he has yet to receive official word on the reigning San Miguel Beer star’s status, Baldwin admitted the development, if not reversed, would be a big blow for the squad.

“The national team can’t replace what he brings to the team,” the American-Kiwi mentor said on Thursday after practice. “We would miss him a lot if he doesn’t show up.” was the first to report that Fajardo, a pillar for the Gilas team in the 2014 Fiba World Cup and the Asian Games, is doubtful for this year's Fiba Asia campaign.

Baldwin reiterated that the gentle giant from Cebu would’ve been a rare shoo-in for the final 12-man lineup if the reigning PBA MVP was healthy and available.

“I’ve said from the very beginning that he was the only player that I would select without a trial. That still stands,” the veteran international tactician said.

[See Fajardo back in Manila but still unsure of Gilas participation]

Baldwin even bared Fajardo would’ve been a focal point of his “Swing” offense had the 6-foot-10 slotman had been healthy.

“(The offense) tends to try and exploit the attributes of post players, so we certainly had June Mar in mind when we were creating this offense.”

Still, the Gilas coach said he'll find a way to make the system work - with or without Fajardo.

“It’s a great offense for all the players, so we’ll stick with it,” added Baldwin, who still has naturalized Filipino Andray Blatche, Asi Taulava, and Sonny Thoss at his disposal.

“We will fight on without him if he doesn’t show up,” he continued. “I’m not a kind of guy that cries over what I don’t have. I work hard with what I do.”

[See From dribble drive to 'Swing:' Learn more about Baldwin's offensive system]

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos