June Mar Fajardo on Thursday made his first appearance at Gilas Pilipinas practice at the Meralco Gym in Pasig, giving coach Tim Cone a full roster to practice for the Southeast Asian Games.
Fajardo had been the lone absent player from the SEA Games player pool until Thursday. Cone said the San Miguel big man didn't have any problems adapting basic concepts of his system during their two hours together.
"It was great to see June Mar. He just makes the team look different. He makes everything look different out there. I didn't have to instruct him one thing. All he did was watch what everyone was doing and he picked it up just like that. His basketball IQ is off the charts. It's amazing. He's fun to be around," Cone said.
Fajardo's smarts, said Cone, also changed the complexion of their session, where they ran some offensive sets with him in the middle along with Troy Rosario, Jayson Castro, Matthew Wright and Stanley Pringle.
"He's just such a huge presence. He's a confidence-builder. He just builds your confidence," he said. "They were running our offense and I was all, 'Wow, look at those guys move.' Incredible talent out there. Their basketball IQs are off the charts. And Troy's a really good compliment to June Mar in terms of what he hope to do with June Mar."
Fajardo, who sat out last week's session due to a minor ankle issue, was also joined by Roger Pogoy, Vic Manuel, Christian Standhardinger, Chris Ross and the rest of Ginebra's core of Japeth Aguilar, Greg Slaughter, LA Tenorio, Art dela Cruz and Scottie Thompson.
Marcio Lassiter was also present but did not participate in any on-court activities, although Cone expects him to hit the floor next Monday.
"Participation is crucial, because that's where we'll be able to teach and learn. We'd rather have guys come in short-term and really participate in everything we do rather than have them do really hard stuff and say they can't do it and sit on the side because they have to prepare for tomorrow or the day after," Cone said.
Despite the need for players to be on the court, Cone emphasized that their practices are focused more on absorbing ideas and philosophies while keeping everybody on the same page at all times.
"We came in just trying to do a couple of things and we did these things well, they did it quickly, they did it fast. We had a fast practice. We finished in about an hour and 30. That's our target. We don't want to spend the whole two hours. You do a two-hour practice, you're gonna need a lot of conditioning. We're not gonna do conditioning here. It's really about cerebral stuff," he said.
"We're trying to be smart with our practices and make sure everybody participates, because if everybody participates that means we're all on the same page. Today, our key words were 'Same-page mentality.' We want to have the same-page mentality offensively and even more so defensively," Cone said.
And even if the practice was short to preserve everyone's energy, Cone said it didn't really do much to lessen everyone's heightened optimism about what they were trying to achieve.
"I'm really trying to, at this point, not to tax the players. We're just trying to get a feel for what we do. We're not really doing anything competitive in practice. If we do something competitive, it's only three or four repetitions and we're moving to something else," Cone said. "We're just barely beginning. We're just barely putting the foundation of our continuity offense but we're all excited. We had a coaches' meeting from 5-6, we're all in there giggling and laughing. The energy is really good, especially among the coaching staff."