World Cup: Fajardo downplays matchup with Serbian bigs but welcomes challenge
MANILA, Philippines–Gilas Pilipinas will play Serbia in the 2019 Fiba World Cup group stage and June Mar Fajardo’s possible showdown against NBA big men Boban Marjanovic and Nikola Jokic could be a sight to see.
But Fajardo, the five-time PBA Most Valuable Player, downplayed the matchup against the Serbian giants but he welcomes the challenge of going up against them.
“It’s a five-on-five game, although this would be a great experience for the team,” said Fajardo in Filipino during Gilas’ sendoff ceremonies Wednesday at Meralco.
“It’s going to be a big challenge for me because the opponents are really big,” said Fajardo. “But I know I can gain experience from that.”
The 6-foot-10 Fajardo is seen as the anchor of the Philippines in the World Cup with 7-foot center Andray Blatche complementing him in the frontcourt.
Serbia, though, has one of the most talented big men in the NBA of this generation in Jokic who led the Denver Nuggets to the no.2 seed in the Western Conference with a 54-28 record.
The 7-foot Jokic averaged 20.1 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 7.3 assists and was seen as a fringe MVP candidate during the season.
Marjanovic, meanwhile, was more of a bench player with the Los Angeles Clippers and the Philadelphia 76ers, playing just 13.9 minutes a game and putting up 7.3 points and 4.6rebounds.
Had Marjanovic been given starter minutes, the 7-foot-3 giant would’ve averaged 22.3 points, 14 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks according to Basketball-Reference.com.
Despite the tough task ahead of Gilas playing two powerhouse teams, Fajardo said they just have to play as a team to get the best results.
“We just have to play as one,” said Fajardo.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.