By Ernest Hernandez
The decision of Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes to have June Mar Fajardo come off the bench left many perplexed. However, the move turned out to be brilliant as the national team defeated Chinese Taipei, 90-83.
Even before their game against Japan, Reyes wanted more speed in the starting line. He opted to start Japeth Aguilar and Andray Blatche over “The Kraken.” Fajardo never questioned the move, ready for anything.
“I spoke to June Mar to tell him that he will come off the bench and if he’d be fine with it. He said no problem,” reveals Reyes.
“I think it was a tribute to the ‘teammanship’ of the players on this squad when we decided to start Japeth together with Andray even before the Japan game,” he adds.
Gilas shot blanks in the early goings against Chinese Taipei. It was enough to put them ahead, 17-3 with just a few minutes in the first quarter.
Changing the game plan, Reyes felt the need to put more muscle inside. Fajardo was fielded in, and he immediately made an impact in scoring and getting the Taiwanese big men in foul trouble.
For Reyes, it was a good sign of maturity for his young core of players to adjust to game situations quickly.
“The good thing, even if we are not shooting well, we found out the way to grind out a W. Hopefully that is a sign of progress and evolution of this team,” Reyes said.
For Fajardo, it was just business as usual. He deflects the credit to the coaches and his teammates.
“Nagpapasalamat lang ako sa mga teammates ko and kay coach sa tiwala niya sa akin,” said Fajardo. “Kung ano yung pwede kong ma-contribute sa team, gagawinko.”
Fajardo finished the game with 17 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in 24 minutes of playing time.
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