FOSHAN, China -- Marcio Lassiter could do nothing as he watched Italy trounce Gilas Pilipinas in their opening game of the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup. It should have been his chance to play on the world stage but a knee injury knocked him off the final roster.
Being one of the deadliest shooters in the PBA, Lassiter was a favorite to make the lineup. His loss was compounded when Matthew Wright was injured during preparations for the tournament; leaving Gilas without its two best shooters in the pool.
Going into their game, Coach Yeng Guiao believed that making at least 10 3-pointers would keep the match close. Without Lassiter and Wright, however, the Philippines failed to land a single 3 in the first half against Italy.
"It was tough to see that," Lassiter said after the game, who was in China along with his entire family. "To see my brothers out there having a hard time was tough. I wanted to battle with them. We went through a lot in the qualifiers and I hoped we could continue building on that. Unfortunately, I got hurt."
Still, Lassiter hopes that the team won't be too low after the loss.
"It was a tough night for them. The shooting is not where we wanted but I hope they're not too hard on themselves," Lassiter said. "We still have two more games in the group to try and bounce back."
Aside from the performance of youngsters Robert Bolick and CJ Perez, another silver lining for Lassiter was June Mar Fajardo.
The five-time PBA MVP once again showed that he can contend against international big men. He had nine points and six rebounds in 21 minutes of action, being the most efficient from the field as he made three of his four field goal attempts.
"I'm definitely proud of June Mar and it looked like he hurt himself too," said his San Miguel Beer teammate. "What a lot of people don't know is that June Mar plays through a lot of aches and pains. For him to come out and still give it a go was inspiring."
The problem for Gilas was they struggled to send the ball inside to Fajardo. Against tall and lanky defenders harassing the passers, the big man could not get the ball in his comfort zone regularly, resulting to limited touches.
"I always felt like there's a reason why he has all those MVPs," Lassiter said of Fajardo. "We all know how dominant he is in the PBA but what sets him apart is that he keeps on working on his game. He translates that into the international game as well. He's still in his prime and he wants to get better. I think there's no doubt that he can be successful if he plays in other leagues but we're lucky in SMB that he's a big momma's boy so he's staying home."