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Gilas bigs ready to step up with absence of Fajardo, Edu

MANILA, Philippines – With two big men sitting out the first window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers this week, Gilas Pilipinas will have a next-man-up mentality coming into the games.

Both AJ Edu and June Mar Fajardo will be sitting out the Gilas games against Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei.

In lieu of Edu, the Nationals tapped longtime Philippine team big man Japeth Aguilar. Fajardo has no replacement, giving Gilas just 11 players. 

Kai Sotto will be the lone bona fide center for Gilas, whose rest of the roster includes Aguilar, CJ Perez, Jamie Malonzo, Dwight Ramos, Kevin Quiambao, Justin Brownlee, Scottie Thompson, Chris Newsome, Carl Tamayo and Calvin Oftana. 

During Monday’s press conference, Sotto said that with the absence of Edu and Fajardo, the rest of the team will have to step up. 

“Big props to Kuya Japeth to step in for that spot and of course. We have a next man up [mentality] for all the players,” the 7-foot-3 big man said. 

“We’re missing two key players, so the rest will have to step up and everybody’s ready to step up when it comes to this window,” he added. 

Edu suffered a torn meniscus, while Fajardo will have to rest his calf that was injured during the PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals.

Fajardo on Monday bared that he was ordered to sit out at least two weeks.
“I am really sad because I really want to play for Gilas. But, I was ordered by the doctor to rest. But I am trying my best,” the multi-time national team player said. 

“Hopefully, it heals fast so I can return soon.” 

With the absence of Edu and Fajardo, Sotto, Aguilar and 6-foot-8 forward Carl Tamayo will be bolstering the pivot position. 

Aguilar was unable to train on Monday as his wife gave birth to their daughter on Sunday. 

“So, Japeth being able to back up Kai is going to be very big for us. And Carl Tamayo is our third string center so he might have to play out of position,” Gilas head coach Tim Cone said. 

“But these are things that happen in any basketball team. You have injuries, you have guys that have wives that deliver babies, you have these kinds of things that happen all the time. You just gotta roll with the punches and continue to deal with this,” he added. 

Gilas will