SAN Miguel has been training for months without the key player in its offense, but coach Leo Austria believes the wait will be worth it as they expect a much more dominant June Mar Fajardo to rejoin the Beermen for the new PBA season.
The Beermen are working on a few tweaks to their system with Fajardo as the focal point on offense but while the league MVP remains with Gilas for international duty, SMB is left to play simulations.
Austria, the Beermen’s fifth head coach in two years, has been closely monitoring Gilas’ performance since the Fiba World Cup and he likes what he sees from Fajardo.
“I’m happy to see him during the campaign in Spain and (Asian Games) Korea. And ang na-notice ko, he kept running up and down to catch up with his man, at sometimes nakaka-shoot siya against bigger players,” Austria told Spin.ph, shortly after the Beermen whipped GlobalPort Batang Pier, 90-82 in their preseason match on Saturday at the Acropolis gym in Libis, Quezon City.
Judging from Fajardo’s play in limited minutes on the international stage, Austria believes the 24-year-old youthful center can dominate the PBA.
“Against those big men, in the PBA especially versus the locals, I think he can dominate in the shaded area, especially if these (San Miguel) players recognize the advantage which we’re trying to do,” he added.
The 56-year-old San Miguel mentor acknowledged that the Beermen have underachieved for the past two seasons, and he hopes to maximize the talent they have from all positions to finally live up to expectations.
“Before they (Gilas) left for Korea, we walked through the plays for him (Fajardo) para magka-idea na siya, and madali naman para sa kanya because most of the plays kasi, the option is always for the big man, and it would be easier for the shooters kasi we have the big men to go to sa shaded area,” explained Austria, who succeeded active consultant Todd Purves.
Austria hopes to draw the best from their gunners, particularly Fil-American shooters Chris Lutz, Marcio Lassiter, guards Chris Ross and Solomon Mercado as well one-time PBA MVP Arwind Santos.
Lutz has averaged 26.5 points in the Beermen’s two preseason games.