Baldwin: Fajardo has to ‘anchor’ national team, take more responsibility

Naveen Ganglani

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Baldwin: Fajardo has to ‘anchor’ national team, take more responsibility
'I think he, you know, his biggest challenge will be to anchor our national team internationally,' Baldwin said

MANILA, Philippines – Out of the members of Gilas-Pilipinas’ rosters during their 2014 international tournaments, it seems that only one local is all but assured of retaining his spot this year: reigning Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) MVP June Mar Fajardo.

It doesn’t have anything to do with favoritism, but rather a mandate due to necessity. “Because we are so limited with size… he walks in the team if he’s healthy,” says new Philippine national squad head coach Tab Baldwin. 

But Fajardo’s spot on Gilas, while all but assured because of his towering and imposing 6-foot-11 frame, was also earned by his improvement on the basketball court, where many will be quick to point out he has earned the right to be called the best player in the PBA today, as supported by his recent performance. 

“His skill level, his production, his consistency, his fitness, you know all of these things have improved remarkably,” Baldwin said on Tuesday, March 3.

(READ: Baldwin hopes Fajardo gets more international burn to improve)

However, there’s a catch. Baldwin sees greatness in Fajardo, saying “I think he has huge potential,” – something he displayed in numerous instances during the 2014 FIBA World Cup, most notably in Gilas’ win against Senegal where Fajardo stepped in for the fouled-out Andray Blatche and led the Philippines to their first victory in the international spectacle in 40 years. 

But as the old saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and for Baldwin, he wants Fajardo to take the responsibility of anchoring Gilas for the years to come.

“I think he, you know, his biggest challenge will be to anchor our national team internationally,” Baldwin said. “And playing in the PBA, he’s always going to be a standout because of his size and he has a tremendous advantage.”

“But there’s great responsibility that comes with something that’s given to you, and yes, he’s earned it through his performance over time, but he also has it handed to him because he’s big,” the experienced head coach later said. “So I intend to put a lot of pressure on June Mar and put a lot of responsibility on his shoulders.”

Fajardo averaged 6.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in 12.8 minutes per game through five games in the World Cup. In the unforgettable win against Senegal, in which he played a tourney-high 32 minutes, the 25-year-old finished with 15 points and 9 rebounds, most of which coming in overtime, against an NBA-level big man in Gorgui Dieng.

Reigning MVP June Mar Fajardo continues his rise in the PBA. File photo by Nuki Sabio/PBA Images

In his 2014 PBA MVP campaign, Fajardo averaged 16.8 points, 14.2 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per contest. In the 2015 Philippine Cup, he led the San Miguel Beermen to their first title in a little over three years.

No one doubts what Fajardo can do on the hardcourt. His play should only improve as well as he gets closer to his prime years while guided by the watchful eye of Baldwin and his coaching staff, and from getting to go up against the best big men the rest of Asia, and hopefully the world, has to offer.

But being a leader – especially for the national team – goes beyond dropping 20 points and grabbing 20 rebounds. It also includes being a vocal presence in the locker room; the guiding force for his teammates when things aren’t going as planned.

Baldwin hopes that Fajardo can be that leader he needs to gather the troops before battle. 

But if he doesn’t, the head coach plans on making sure that leadership comes from someone. 

“We have to have leadership, whether it comes from June Mar or not, I don’t know, I would love to see him, because he is empowered with great responsibility. I would love to see him do that,” said Baldwin.

“But if it’s not him, it has to be somebody. So that is one of the absolute cornerstones of a successful team – is to have great vocal leadership. So I’m looking for that.” –

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!