June Mar Fajardo, the San Miguel cornerstone and the last remaining member of the Philippine team that lost the gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games last year, has been officially ruled out for the upcoming redemption campaign of Gilas Pilipinas in Cambodia this May.
The national coach, Chot Reyes, confirmed the news after the team’s practice session in Pasig City. Fajardo hurt his left knee in a collision with a Ryukyu player during the Beermen’s East Asia Super League tournament in Japan, and was diagnosed with a medial collateral ligament injury that also prevented him from playing in the Governors’ Cup playoffs.
Reyes said that Fajardo is not a hundred percent fit, and the team doesn’t want to risk his injury by playing him in Cambodia. The coach’s priority is the World Cup in August, and he wants Fajardo to be fully fit for that event. Fajardo was part of the Gilas squad that lost to Indonesia in the Hanoi edition of the Southeast Asian Games. Another member of the team, Roger Pogoy, has already ruled himself out of the upcoming tournament with a fractured finger.
Another potential withdrawal from the team is Barangay Ginebra star and reigning PBA MVP, Scottie Thompson. Reyes said that Thompson’s wife is expected to give birth in the middle of the basketball tournament, so his participation is uncertain. However, Ginebra forward and Gilas fixture Japeth Aguilar could still join the training camp, according to Reyes. Aguilar has participated in two Basketball World Cups and is on his way back to full fitness after a calf problem.
Fajardo’s absence comes at a time when rising star Jamie Malonzo and PBA scoring champion Mikey Williams have both withdrawn from Gilas duty. TNT’s Poy Erram and AJ Edu are also unlikely to join the team’s training camp. Despite the setbacks, Reyes said that the team is still looking forward to the tournament and is preparing to give its best. The team’s training camp will ramp up at Inspire Academy in Calamba this Sunday.