Is Justine Baltazar the next Pinoy player to head abroad?

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 08 2021 03:25 PM


Is Justine Baltazar the next Pinoy player to head abroad? 1
Justine Baltazar in action for Gilas Pilipinas against Indonesia. 

MANILA, Philippines -- De La Salle University big man Justine Baltazar confirmed that he has received offers to play for teams in Japan, but at the moment he remains unsure of what his next step will be.

"May nagme-message lang po sa akin sa Japan," Baltazar said on Play It Right TV on Wednesday.

This comes after coach Allan Trinidad, the sports director of Pampanga, revealed on Chooks-to-Go's "Snowball" program that the 6-foot-9 forward is being recruited by at least three teams from the B.League.

Trinidad also said that a team from the NBL-USA is looking to recruit Baltazar, a two-time Mythical Team member in the UAAP and now a mainstay of the Gilas Pilipinas program.

"Maganda naman ang alok sa kanya," Trinidad said of the offers coming from the B.League, hinting that it is similar to the contract given to Thirdy Ravena who now plays for the San-En NeoPhoenix.

A handful of Filpino players have recently taken their talents abroad. Aside from Ravena, his older brother Kiefer also signed with Shiga in the B.League, although his situation has been made complicated by his existing contract with the NLEX Road Warriors in the PBA.

Both Javi and Juan Gomez de Liano are also headed to Japan, while Kai Sotto will play for the Adelaide 36ers in Australia's NBL in the hopes of preparing for a career in the NBA.

Baltazar admitted that he has no idea about the offer from the United States but acknowledged that they likely contacted Trinidad instead.

Nonetheless, he is not expected to make a decision until after consulting with his patron, Governor Dennis "Delta" Pineda of Pampanga.

This includes whether or not he will return to the Green Archers for his final season of eligibility as a collegiate player.

"'Yun po ang pag-uusapan namin ni Gov. Pineda po," Baltazar said of his commitment to La Salle. 

Baltazar's stock has risen over the past month, thanks to a series of strong performances for the national team, where he showed that he can play not just as a big man but also on the perimeter. 

The 24-year-old Baltazar averaged 7.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.2 steals per game in the recently concluded FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers in Clark, Pampanga.

Against Serbia and the Dominican Republic in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, he averaged 7.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. 

"Maganda 'yung sistema namin," said Baltazar. "Basta, kailangan lang namin gawin 'yung pinapagawa ng mga coaches namin. Kita naman 'yun sa resulta ng mga laro namin."

Tab Baldwin, the program director of Gilas as well as its coach, has praised Baltazar for how he has transitioned into a perimeter player after spending most of his basketball life inside the shaded lane.

"He is a smart player, he is a tough player. He's going to bulk up, going to get to be physically stronger, that's going to be a problem to other teams," Baldwin said of Baltazar.


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