Just a day before Gilas Pilipinas departs for the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup, SMB team governor Robert Non came up with an announcement that the national team’s premier center, June Mar Fajardo, won’t be available for the upcoming meet due to a strained calf. Non said that he has already relayed the bad news to coach Chot Reyes.
The tournament will be held on August 8 to 20 in Beirut, Lebanon and will feature 16 Asian teams.
Fajardo will also sit out SMB’s game against sister team Star. A copy of the medical findings were already submitted to the Commissioner’s office.
The 6-foot-10 Cebuano’s injury is a big blow to a team still reeling from the absence of naturalized player Andray Blatche.
With Fajardo’s exit, Raymond Almazan will take turns with Christian Standghardinger in manning the slot.
Apparently, Fajardo suffered the injury during the tail end of SMB’s game against bitter rival TNT. The Beermen won, 97-91 and was paced by the three-time league MVP who finished with 27 points, 6 rebounds and 5 blocks.
“Nung pinatingin namin sa doctor, pati ‘yung isang kabila nasilip ganun din. Kaya ang advice one week rest siya,” said Non.
Fajardo didn’t practice with the national team on Thursday night but will join the team as it departs for Lebanon on Sunday morning.
“Sasama pa rin siya to see how the other teams play, especially Australia dahil nga makakalaban natin ‘yun sa World Cup qualifier,” added Non.
Gilas is set to open the tournament against powerhouse China on August 9. They will face Iraq on August 11 and end the Group Phase matches against Qatar on August 13. – Victor Adea