Beermen find strength in Fajardo
SMB’s Mo Tautuaa jockeys for position against Magnolia’s Ian Sangalang in the Beermen’s convincing victory in last Sunday’s opener
Jun Mendoza

Beermen find strength in Fajardo

Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - March 10, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Six-peat-shooting San Miguel Beer braces for a possible season-long absence of superstar June Mar Fajardo, who’s been forced out of action by a devastating shin injury.

Beermen coach Leo Austria said the recovery period for the fractured shin that hit Fajardo during practice normally takes eight months. But they’re willing to give the six-time MVP more than that if it would lead him to full recovery.

“I think we will miss (him), probably eight months, siguro baka the entire season,” Austria said after SMB survived its first game without Fajardo via a 94-78 mangling of contender Magnolia Hotshots in the Philippine Cup last Sunday.

“I told him don’t rush everything. Gusto ko kung babalik siya 110 percent na siya para psychologically walang ano (trauma). Alam naman natin manalo o matalo kung ano ang binigay ni June Mar sa team and the reason the players ay nagkaroon ng pride and character is because of June Mar,” he added.

Fajardo’s backup, Mo Tautuaa, delivered 20 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block in a Player of the Game performance last Sunday.

“I have to commend Mo dahil it seems a lot of people were thinking wala si June Mar so nobody could score inside the paint but most of the scores of Mo were inside the paint and hindi lang yun, he could play defense, too,” said Austria of the Fil-Tongan center.

In their first outing minus Fajardo, Austria utilized Tautuaa, veteran Arwind Santos and youthful Russel Escoto as SMB’s bigs. Santos fired 18 and grabbed a team-high 15 boards while Escoto contributed five caroms and three markers in 11 minutes.

San Miguel’s vaunted guard line led by Terrence Romeo (19 points, seven assists), Alex Cabagnot (10 points) and Chris Ross (seven dimes, five rebounds, four points) also contributed in the statement win.

“I think with this win, yung belief ng team mananatili sa kanila na they’re still capable of winning. At the same time, with this game, those teams (challengers), they will realize we’re not a team na pwedeng biruin. This is a big win. It would boost our confidence,” said Austria.

After receiving his sixth MVP title during the Leo Awards, Fajardo sat at the SMB bench in the first half and cheered his teammates on.

“Motivated sila because of the spirit of June Mar. Na-inspire sila kay June Mar na inspite of his situation, he was able to come here and he said, ‘I will watch the game and I will provide support,’” said Austria.

“Unfortunately he can’t stay in the second half,” he added.

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