Fajardo bears weight of SMB crown defense–and more–on his shoulders
June Mar Fajardo is becoming a polarizing figure in the Philippine Basketball Association.
The San Miguel Beer superstar is tasked to lead his squad’s title defense—and possibly his MVP crown—and will enter the 41st season bearing an additional bhurden on his shoulders.
He has to rise above a hate that is both inexplicable and expected and perform above a chorus of boos that could rain on him once he hits the court.
Coming off plantar fasciitis injuries on both feet, which forced him to beg off from Gilas Pilipinas duties, a holdout that earned the ire of national team fans.
“You cannot blame those people who keep on talking negatively about him. Everybody has their own opinions,” said Beermen coach Leo Austria.
Fajardo, however, has taken the right step forward in dealing with the controversy.
“Hindi ko na pinapansin yun,” said the 6-foot-10 slotman. “Wala naman akong ginawang krimen eh (I don’t pay any attention to those criticisms. I haven’t committed any crime).”
“Akala siguro ng iba hindi naman ganung kasakit yung plantar, pero kasi di naman nila nae-experience yun. Kahit sabihin nating bata pa ako, kailangan ko ring ingatan yung katawan ko kasi ito yung puhunan ko eh (People think having this injury isn’t that painful because they’ve never experienced it. I may be young but I have to take care of my body because my career depends on it),” he explained.
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year also said he understands the source of the hate, but acknowledges that he can’t really do anything to appease his bashers.
“Di mo mapi-please lahat. Di naman ako kailangang i-like ng mga haters at di ko rin naman sila kailangang i-hate. Si Jesus Christ nga may mga ayaw din sa kanya dati eh (You can’t please everyone. I don’t need to be liked by beverybody. I don’t need to hate everybody. Even Jesus Christ had people who didn’t like him),” he said.
“Dati nga may mga nagsabi na di ako dapat nasama sa Gilas pero gusto ko talagang lumaro. This time lang talaga, may injury ako kaya hindi ako pwede. Ayoko naman sumama dun na hindi ako makakapaglaro ng maayos, na baka isipin lang nila na nagbabakasyon lang ako dahil di naman ako maka-contribute (People used to say I didn’t deserve to be with the national team. But I wanted to play. I just have an injury this time that’s why I can’t play for the national team. I don’t like to be there and not play my best because people might think I can’t contribute and I’m just vacationing).”
So Fajardo focuses on things he can control: He is alternately rehabbing his injury and shaping up for the coming season.
And that’s what draws him praise from San Miguel team captain Arwind Santos.
“Ang kinagandahan sa kanya, nagiisa na lang sya na big man na tinitingala ng tao. Sa nilalaro nya, andyan na yung maturity,” he said. “Yung injury, di natin maiiwasan, pero andun yung sipag nya at mentality na mag-improve. Pagdating ng ilang taon, isa sya sa mga magiging best sa liga.”
But turning the public’s perception wouldn’t really be that easy, and for Fajardo, he’s just keeping his cards to himself and just like every single time, will let his game do the talking.
“Kung ano lang yung ginagawa ko sa previous year, idadagdag ko kung ano yung kaya ko pang i-improve,” he said. “Same lang kami ng ibang team na gustong manalo ng championship kaya kailangang pagtrabahuan yun. Sabi nga ni coach Leo, may bulls-eye kami sa likod at kami ang target ng ibang team. Di kami dapat mag-relax at gagawin lang namin yung dapat naming gawin.”