MANILA, Philippines -- Jerrick Balanza quickly showed why Converge traded for him in just his first game with the FiberXers on Sunday night.
Against the NorthPort Batang Pier in their first game of the 2022-23 PBA Governors' Cup, Balanza put up 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting, along with four assists and a rebound in 21 minutes off the bench.
He was a plus-20 for the game, which saw the FiberXers pull away in the second quarter en route to a massive 122-92 demolition of the Batang Pier. It was a solid debut for Balanza against his former team; NorthPort had traded him to Converge on January 4.
"He is a good addition for us," said Converge coach Aldin Ayo, who was also Balanza's coach for one season in Colegio de San Juan de Letran. "He can score. At the same time, hindi siya liability sa depensa."
"He plays defense also, which is 'yung ang hinahanap namin -- 'yung mga two-way players," he added.
Balanza, for his part, was simply glad to have played well in his first game, as he admits that he is still adjusting to life at Converge. Despite playing for Ayo in college, he says he still has much to learn about how his coach wants to play.
"Sabi ko nga sa mga nagsasabi sa akin na, 'Favorite ka ba niyan dati?' Sabi ko, 'Hindi kasi one year lang naman kami nagsama ni coach Aldin.' And then that year, rookie year ako noon, 18 years old lang ako, then hindi rin naman ako nakakalaro," said Balanza, who was part of the Letran team that won the 2015 NCAA championship.
"Sabi ko siguro kaya gusto niya ako, nakita niya 'yung laro ko sa PBA. 'Yung mga unang laro ko sa PBA, bago siya pumasok, siguro nakita niya na papasok ako sa sistema niya kaya gusto niya ako makuha siguro," he added.
It does help that there are a handful of former Knights within the Converge squad, including Kevin Racal and assistant coach McJour Luib. They have been instrumental in helping Balanza learn the intricacies of Ayo's system, he said.
"Two weeks pa lang ako doon sa kanila, pero buti 'yung mga teammates and 'yung mga assistant coaches, mababait sila. Hindi ako tumitigil din eh, talagang makulit ako sa practice namin, marami akong tanong," the swingman said.
"Kasi alam ko si coach Aldin, sobrang dami at saka detalyado ng sistema niya. Kaya ayun, until now, naga-adjust pa rin ako," he added.
Balanza was selected 13th overall by Barangay Ginebra in the 2019 Rookie Draft but spent just one season with the Gin Kings before being traded to NorthPort in May 2021.
He averaged 5.6 points, 1.7 assists, and 1.6 rebounds per game for the Batang Pier in the 2022-23 Commissioner's Cup.
"Wala naman akong iniisip na iba against sa kanila," Balanza said of the Batang Pier. "Nothing personal. Naging professional lang po 'yung attitude ko. Kasi dati pa naman, kung saan ako mapunta, doon talaga ako maglalaro."
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