MANILA, Philippines – San Miguel will explore uncharted territory in the upcoming PBA season without star big man June Mar Fajardo.
Recuperating from a shin injury, the reigning five-time PBA MVP might miss an entire season, leaving a gaping hole in the middle for the Beermen, who are seeking a sixth straight Philippine Cup title.
"This is the first time that we feel we're an underdog because of [the absence of] June Mar. June Mar has been part and parcel of our championships," said Beermen governor Robert Non in a mix of Filipino and English.
Since San Miguel drafted Fajardo in 2012, it won 8 of the last 15 PBA champions, including a record 5 straight all-Filipino crowns.
But playing non-stop basketball both for the Beermen and Gilas Pilipinas soon took its toll on Fajardo, who suffered a complete fracture on his right shin – an injury compared to that of NBA star Paul George.
"His shin is really broken. It had to be repaired with metals and 4 screws – two at the top and two at the bottom," Non said.
"If he can fully recover, maybe he can play in the third conference if we reach the playoffs because it ends in February [next year.]"
Although the odds are stacked against them with the rest of the 11 PBA teams aching to end their Philippine Cup reign, Non did not dismiss the possibility of San Miguel remaining a contender.
"I still believe we can come up with something that even if June Mar is out, we can be competitive, especially now that we have some adjustments that we're doing in the absence of June Mar," Non said.
"Hopefully, it will work and we'll be there fighting again for the championship."
The defending champions will kick off the 45th PBA season against Magnolia in a rematch of the last two Philippine Cup finals on March 8 at the Araneta Coliseum.
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.