Fajardo not letting Gilas withdrawal criticism bring him down

MANILA, Philippines – June Mar Fajardo is not letting hate and criticism get to him.

The gentle giant of the San Miguel Beermen has been on the receiving end of fans’ anger and frustration the last couple of months after he begged off from tour of duty for Gilas Pilipinas due to a plantar fasciitis injury on both feet

But the 25-year old says he has already developed thick skin against the criticism.

Balita ko nga dami ko nang haters e. Okay lang yan. Si God nga may haters din e (I hear I already have many haters. It’s okay. Even God has haters),” the back-to-back PBA MVP told reporters with a smile after he received the Gerry’s Grill-Defensive Player of the Year award during the 2015 PBA Press Corps Awards night on Wednesday, September 16 at the Century Park Hotel in Ermita, Manila.

Fans aired their frustrations with Fajardo in comments on his Instagram account with many saying they were disappointed in him. Others flat out lambasted him with expletives. A normally active Instagram user, Fajardo has not posted on the photo-sharing app in 7 weeks.

"Hindi mo naman ma-please lahat. Hindi naman lahat ng tao maiintindihan yung reasons moPapasalamat pa rin ako sa mga taong sumusuporta sa akin and nagtitiwala sa akin,” he added. (You can’t please everybody. Not everyone will understand your reasons. I’m still grateful to people who support me and trust me.)

The 6-foot-10 big man says he has been battling plantar fasciitis since the playoffs of the Governors’ Cup in June. He was included in the initial pool for the Philippine national men’s basketball team, but because of the injury, which causes pain in the heel due to inflammation of the plantar fascia tissue, did not commit to Gilas.

Vastly improved and a different beast altogether in the PBA, Fajardo was supposed to anchor the Gilas squad of head coach Tab Baldwin and would have been vital to fortifying the Philippines’ frontline. Taking up the cudgels now are veterans Asi Taulava, 42, and Sonny Thoss, 33.

He has since been undergoing therapy and joined Beermen practice in the past week. However, he still can’t participate fully, only taking part in drills. He said he tried to run on Tuesday but the pain in his feet recurred.

"Gusto ko rin sumama noon kaso naisip ko kasi kung sasama ako doon tapos hindi ako magpra-practice sa team isipin naman nagbabakasyon lang ako. Pahinga na lang ako (I wanted to join but I thought if I do it I won’t be able to practice anyway so it’s like I’m just on vacation. Might as well rest),” explained Fajardo, who said he spoke with Baldwin before Gilas preparations made significant headway.

Fajardo played for the Philippines in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, the 2014 Asian Games and the 2015 FIBA World Cup – an international career that preoccupied him in all of his PBA offseasons since getting drafted first overall in 2012.

Taulava, who is still playing at a high level in his return to Gilas, previously joked that if the Philippines should win the gold medal at the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in China and earn a 2016 Olympics slot, he would step aside and have Fajardo play in Rio de Janeiro.

But Fajardo, when told of what Taulava said, has no plans of reaping the reward of what others worked hard for.

"Nakakahiya naman yun. Sila naghirap tapos ako sasali. Pag nakakuha sila ng gold at nakapasok sila sa Olympics, sila na lang maglaro. Parang gift na rin niya sa sarili niya yun kasi siya nagsikap e,” he explained. "Parang last na niya yan sa Gilas e, ako may chance pa naman ako makalaro para sa Gilas e.”

(That’s not fair. They worked for it and then I’ll join. If they get the gold and make the Olympics, they should play. It’s like Asi’s gift to himself because he put in the effort. It might be his last Gilas run, I still have a chance to play.)

Fajardo admitted he misses his Gilas teammates such as veteran Marc Pingris. He said he has been following the team’s games and he is open to donning the Pilipinas jersey once more if his health permits.

"Basta ako pag healthy lang tapos kung kukunin ako ng Gilas, maglalaro ako,” he said. "Yun lang naman problema ng players e, yung injury. Katawan ang puhunan namin so kailangan ingatan.” (As long as I’m healthy and Gilas calles me up, I’ll play. That’s really only the problem of players, the injuries. Our bodies are our investment so we have to be careful.) – Rappler.com