Gilas Pilipinas’ campaign in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Asia Cup took another blow when June Mar Fajardo was declared unfit to play for the PH 5 due to strained calf muscle on both legs.
And with naturalized player Andray Blatche already out of the team as he feared for his safety in Beirut, Lebanon where the Asian caging to be held starting on Tuesday, head coach Chot Reyes was left with 6’8 Christian Standhardinger as the lone legit big man for the squad.
And the Filipino-German, who will be the PH 5’s naturalized center for the tournament, exactly knows that the team needs to be able to have a decent performance in Beirut.
“Puso (heart). It’s all about the heart. We are just going to fight till our last breath and try to get the victory,” Standhardinger told The Manila Times in an interview
before the squad departed for Lebanon on Sunday morning.
“It does not matter how we shoot, it doesn’t matter how we rebound, and it doesn’t matter how we go to the basket or how fast we’re going to be. It’s all about the heart. If we have that, we have everything else, too,” he added.
‘Puso’ was the team’s main weapon to finish runner-up in 2013 and 2015 Asia Cup, formerly the Asian Championships.
But without Blatche and Fajardo, Reyes has only Standhardinger to rely on at the middle along with 6’7 Raymond Almazan.
“We have very few weapons and then we lost another (Fajardo), so all we can do now is hope for the best and fight the hardest,” said Reyes.
Fajardo still joined the Beirut trip and he’s in the final roster of Reyes. Whether he can play in the weeklong tournament remains to be seen.
“If I can play, I will play because I really like to. What I’m thinking right now is how I’m going to recover fast from this injury because it is slighty painful,” said the three-time Most Valuable Player in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
Aside from Standhardinger and Almazan, the Gilas players for the FIBA Asia Cup are Matthew Wright, Japeth Aguilar, Calvin Abueva, Carl Bryan Cruz, RR Pogoy, Terrence Romeo, Jio Jalalon, Jayson Castro and Gabe Norwood.
The Philippines is bracketed in Group B with defending champion China, Iraq and Qatar. The Filipinos will face China on August 9 at 6:30 p.m. (Manila time).