By Jonas Terrado
San Miguel Beer’s quest for a dynastic sixth consecutive PBA Philippine Cup crown suffered a major blow with June Mar Fajardo set to miss at least the whole duration of the season opening conference due to an injured shin.
The team confirmed that Fajardo underwent surgery on Tuesday, a day after sustaining a complete fracture on his right tibia during the Beermen’s practice at the Acropolis Gym.
It was the same shin that forced Fajardo to miss the first nine games of the 2018 Governors’ Cup due to a stress fracture.
But the latest injury suggests that the 6-foot-10 star could be sidelined beyond the Philippine Cup since San Miguel gave no exact timetable as to when he’ll return.
“San Miguel Beermen center June Mar Fajardo suffered a complete fracture on his right tibia during team practice last Feb. 3,” the team said in a statement. “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 statement added.
A look at medical websites suggests that a complete fracture on the tibia has a recovery period of four to six months while a stress fracture takes six to eight weeks to heal.
SMB also said the injury may forced Fajardo to skip representing Gilas Pilipinas in any international tournaments, though the national team is only slated to play in two windows of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers this year.
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas left Fajardo out of the Gilas pool for this month’s window, adding that the reigning five-time Most Valuable Player will be given a well-deserved rest from international duties.
“During this rehabilitation phase, the team regrets that he won’t be able to play for the San Miguel Beermen in the Philippine Cup. June Mar, for his part, is also saddened that he may not be able to join any upcoming international competitions,” the team said.
“The San Miguel Beermen management is committed to ensuring that June Mar will get the best medical care, and would like to thank fans for the messages of concern and well wishes.”
Fajardo’s absence is expected to change the complexion of the Philippine Cup which starts on March 1 with San Miguel taking on Magnolia in a rematch of last year’s Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
SMB was seen as a top contender to retain supremacy in the Philippine Cup even before Fajardo’s injury despite the potential threat from Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, which ruled the recent Governors’ Cup.
Magnolia and TNT KaTropa are also seen as teams that can give SMB a run for their money.
But Fajardo’s injury could serve as a game changer that will give these teams a strong belief that the Beermen’s reign in the PBA’s most important tournament could finally end.