San Miguel scrambles to fill up Fajardo void

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    FANS can expect San Miguel Beer to make a major move before the 45th PBA season kicks off with the Philippine Cup on March 1.

    Sources yesterday told Malaya-Business Insight that the Beermen are sure to wrangle a deal in the coming days to find another big man who could help fill up the void created by the recent injury to prized center June Mar Fajardo.

    “Sure iyan dahil sa ngayon kulang talaga ng big man ang team,” said an insider.

    “With June Mar out, possibly for the season, malamang na maghahanap ang team ng big man through trade o free agency. Baka nga may mga inaayos ng deal ngayon pa lang.”

    The franchise bosses, SMC sports director Alfrancis Chua and team governor Robert Non, are expected to be back from the PBA planning session in Italy, along with the other team representatives by tomorrow and a meeting with the coaching staff led by Leo Austria has already been set.

    Austria could not be reached for comment.

    Fajardo suffered a fractured right shin in practice last Monday.

    In a statement, the team said “Fajardo suffered a complete fracture on his right tibia during team practice last February 3. He was immediately brought to a hospital, where assessment on the extent of his injury and initial treatment were made.

    “He underwent successful surgery last Feb. 4 and will be scheduled to go through post-operation rehabilitation to allow him to recover at the soonest possible time.”

    The 6-foot-10 behemoth, who is expected to bag his sixth season MVP during the Leo Awards on opening day, was going for a fastbreak lay-up when he suddenly crumpled to the court, clutching his shin.

    “All alone siya, pero ni hindi naka-take off,” related another source.

    It was an old injury, the same one that forced Fajardo to miss most of the 2018 Governors Cup. This time, however, Fajardo could miss the entire season.

    “Major operation dahil malaki ‘yung fracture,” said another insider. “Mukhang matatagalan ng husto bago siya makabalik.”

    After helping Gilas Pilipinas win the SEA Games gold last December, Fajardo was given an extended vacation and was even excluded from the 24-man pool from which will be named the 12-man lineup for the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers later this month.

    SBP president Al Panlilio, however, said Fajardo is sure to be included in the Gilas lineup for the rest of the qualifying windows starting in November.

    Fajardo is the only local to average a double-double last season, norming 18.87 points and 13.0 rebounds an outing while leading SMB to two titles. He reported back for practice two weeks ago along with the other starters.

    “Sayang talaga dahil talagang maganda pina-practice niya ngayon,” related the second insider. “Fresh na fresh silang lahat, lalo na siya.”