San Miguel Beer center June Mar Fajardo said that he is excited to play for the country in the upcoming FIBA Olympic Qualifying tournament from July 5 to 10 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
“I’m very excited to play against the best basketball nations and play against competitive NBA [National Basketball Association] players around the world in the qualifiers,” Fajardo told The Manila Times in an interview after the team’s practice at the Meralco gym in Ortigas. “I’m up to the challenges.”
The 6’10 Fajardo rested for four days because of a swollen knee.
“It’s really good that I was able to return to practice. Everything is positive, no pain in my knee anymore. I felt some tightness but it’s nothing. I’m fine now. We practiced some drills and conditioning. It was a great practice,” added Fajardo.
Fajardo is the back-to-back Philippine Basketball Association’s Most Valuable Player.
“I can’t mention any name but I’m sure they are all competitive and tougher than what I expect,” said Fajardo, pertaining to the stiff competition in the qualifiers. He added that he learned a lot from the 6’11 naturalized Filipino Andray Blatche, “I learned a lot from him [Blatche] and he’s in good shape.”
Fajardo played for the country in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain where he has proven his toughness against Croatian, Senegalese, Greek, Argentinean and Puerto Rican players.
Fajardo, who posted an average of six points and four rebounds plus a block during the World Cup, emerged as the second most efficient player with a 44.92 Player Efficiency Rating (PER) behind National Basketball Association’s Chicago Bulls Spanish center Pao Gasol with 48.66 PER.
Gilas Pilipinas national coach Tab Baldwin, meanwhile, said that the return of big players Fajardo and Blatche definitely enhanced the pool’s practice.
“It’s a great sign because we get a little deeper in practice. We’ll get normal in practice if we have a lot of bodies around,” said Baldwin. “It’s a good practice earlier. The energy is there. We still made many mistakes but we can resolve those things.”
Guard Marcio Lassiter of San Miguel Beer and the 6’7 Raymond Almazan of Rain or Shine, missed Wednesday’s practice because of illness according to Balwin.