Tautuaa on Fajardo's return: It's great having him back

Published July 25, 2021, 10:40 AM

by Carlo Anolin

Mo Tautuaa is nothing but grateful now that there’s June Mar Fajardo, who has returned since recovering from an injury, helping him inside the paint in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup.

San Miguel Beermen big men June Mar Fajardo and Mo Tautuaa (PBA)

With almost all the Beermen contributing in their 110-93 victory against NLEX at the Ynares Arena in Pasig City on Friday, July 23, both Tautuaa and Fajardo joined forced on both ends of the floor and combined for 30 points and 19 rebounds.

Tautuaa posted 16 points, nine rebounds, three assists and a steal while Fajardo had 14 points, 10 rebounds and a block.

“It’s good, it’s June Mar man, that’s the six-time MVP (Most Valuable Player) and he’s one of the biggest threats in the league and having him out there really helps,” said the Filipino-Tongan center. “He’s there. He’s attracting a lot of defense and what it does for everyone else is make the ball move and it’s easier for us to shoot.

“It’s great having him back and I love having him back. He’s a good guy on and off the court. I mean, I have nothing to hate, man,” added Tautuaa with a chuckle.

During the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup bubble season, Tautuaa had to fill in the role left by Fajardo after the Cebuano big man suffered a shin injury while training in February last year.

On his debut full conference with the Beermen, since being acquired by San Miguel in exchange for Christian Standhardinger, who is now with the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Tautuaa averaged 18.91 points, 7.55 rebounds, and 2.64 assists in 11 games.

After qualifying to the quarterfinals, San Miguel saw its five-year reign in the All-Filipino Conference come to an end as the Meralco Bolts won the series, 3-2.

That said, Tautuaa brought the lessons from the bubble experience now in the closed-circuit league as the country continues to deal with the COVID-19 situation.

“We’ve already established that when we’re playing in the bubble last conference,” said Tautuaa. “And from there, coach Leo [Austria] just trusted me and he said, ‘Mo, we’re gonna feed you the ball.'”