THE mood in Petron's practice on Thursday morning suddenly became livelier after injured big man June Mar Fajardo showed up to join his teammates in shooting drills.
The 6-10 Cebuano pride has been on sick bay since sustaining a sprained MCL on his right knee two days before Petron's Christmas Day showdown with sister team Ginebra which the Boosters lost, 83-97.
There had been fears that the 6-10 sophomore may not be ready to return to action until the playoffs - the reason his presence in practice lifted the spirit of the whole team even if he was limited to shooting drills.
“Nag-shooting na siya kanina. Kaso hanggang dun pa lang 'yun sa ngayon,” Petron coach Gee Abanilla told Spin.ph.
Although the knee is no longer swollen, Abanilla bared that the team is taking all the necessary precautions since the Cebu hero is still experiencing some pain.
“Hindi pa namin siya pinapayagang sumali sa practice ng team, kasi mahirap pwersahin ang tuhod niya. Mahirap na area 'yun,” the former De La Salle coach told said.
“Wala na yung maga (ng tuhod niya). Medyo normal na ring maglakad hindi tulad nung dati na dina-drag niya 'yung paa niya (pero) may kaunting pain pa rin siya eh.”
Abanilla bared that Fajardo will undergo a series of tests under top orthopedic surgeon Raul Canlas and Petron’s physical therapist Edward Bacason to assess his readiness to return to action.
“Binabantayan siya sa training nung PT namin. Tapos tuloy-tuloy naman 'yung rehab niya. Yun ang maganda kay June Mar. Diligent siya, saka desididong gumaling agad,” Abanilla said.
“May mga tests na gagawin sa kanya si Dr. Canlas. Tapos 'pag pumasa siya run - kung wala nang masakit o hindi na namaga - pwede na siyang mag ensayo,” said Abanilla. “Hinihintay lang namin si Doc Canlas.”
The immediate target for Fajardo’s return is on January 8 against Barako Bull, but Abanilla insisted that they will not force his top player to suit up unless he gets the green light from Canlas, who is out of town.
“Hindi namin sya papayagang maglaro or at the simplest form mag-ensayo kung hindi pa siya fully healed," the Petron coach said. "Mahirap, career niya yan.”