MANILA, Philippines – Missing an entire PBA season could become a reality for June Mar Fajardo, but he remains in "high spirit" despite the trying times.
San Miguel coach Leo Austria said Fajardo vowed to return soon as he nurses his right shin injury that will keep him out of their title-retention bid in the Philippine Cup.
"As far as my knowledge is concerned, he's in high spirits. Actually the last time, he told me, 'Coach, I'll be back soon. Don't worry, we'll still be together for a long time,'" said Austria in a mix of Filipino and English.
"That's good news for me. We're praying for his speedy recovery."
Since he underwent surgery for his fractured shin early in February, Fajardo has been encouraged not to walk to fast-track his recovery.
In fact, Austria said Fajardo is currently in Manila instead of his home province Cebu to limit him from walking and aggravating the injury.
"Most of the time, he's at his bed, watching maybe Netflix," the eight-time PBA champion coach said with a hearty laugh.
"We're just trying to prevent him from using the affected areas of his [shin] because we need the [bones] to set. If we could use a soldering iron for his injury, we would have done that," Austria added.
As the Beermen wait for the time that Fajardo comes back, they have to figure out a way to win games as they gun for a sixth straight All-Filipino title.
With the reigning five-time PBA MVP sidelined, San Miguel struggled to string wins in its offseason buildup, losing all 3 games against Alaska, NLEX, and Phoenix in their four-team pocket tournament.
"[E]verybody misses June Mar in this tournament. But I told them before that nobody could help us except ourselves. Everybody should step up," Austria said.
"This season is really tough for us."
The Philippine Cup champions have more than two weeks to fine-tune their team before facing Magnolia on opening day on March 8.
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.