San Miguel Beermen star center June Mar Fajardo has played on one of the world's biggest basketball stages since starting as a backup big man for Gilas Pilipinas on its second-place squad in the 2013 FIBA Asia men's championships in Manila.
Except for 2015 when he was out injured, Fajardo has been a key player for the Gilas squad ever since, including the present team which faces a must-win situation as it prepares for the sixth and final window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
Despite the vast international basketball experience, Fajardo is candid enough to admit that he still gets butterflies in his stomach playing for the national team.
"I've been playing for Gilas for years now but I still get nervous. It's there all the time, but I just have to minimize getting nervous because if not, I'll only lose my focus," the 6-foot-10 Fajardo said Wednesday during his Sports Center appearance.
The 29-year-old Fajardo is now one of the most experienced players for Gilas under coach Yeng Guiao. But he has maintained his team-first mentality.
"I've been playing for several years now for Gilas, but still, I'm grateful because I have my teammates with me to support me, as well as the coaching staff to guide me as well," shared the PBA's only five-time Most Valuable Player.
Fajardo said there's no room for complacency as the team focuses on beating Qatar on February 21, before seeking revenge against Kazakhstan on February 24. Both games will be away from home.
"We still have a chance (to earn a FIBA World Cup slot) but we know it won't be easy," Fajardo said. "We need to work doubly hard to get the wins."
Gilas beat Qatar 92-81 in September in Manila and lost to Kazakhstan 92-88 last November.
Gilas will welcome the return of naturalized big man Andray Blatche, who is expected to arrive on Friday from China.