MANILA, Philippines – De La Salle University center Justine Baltazar etched his name into the UAAP record books on Sunday, when he grabbed 25 rebounds in an 85-61 victory over National University (NU).
According to statistician Pong Ducanes, it was the most rebounds grabbed by a local player since 2003. Rodney Brondial of Adamson University, Jervy Cruz of University of Santo Tomas, and Rabeh Al-Hussain of Ateneo de Manila University previously reached the 20-rebound plateau as well.
But Baltazar's production was unprecedented, especially as he compounded it with 25 points, 2 assists, and 2 blocks for a career-best performance.
"When was the last time a local had a 25 and 25 in the UAAP?" La Salle coach Gian Nazario asked rhetorically after the game.
"I mean, again, 'yan ang resulta ng ginagawa ni Balti during practices. He works really hard. He takes care of his body really well. And it shows in the game," he added.
Baltazar, who is in his fourth season with the Green Archers, is the first to admit that he never expected to have such a monster performance.
"Hindi ko rin in-expect na ganoon kaganda 'yung laro ko eh," said the big man, a member of last season's Mythical Team.
"Hindi ko iniisip 'yun kasi talagang darating na darating din sa akin 'to eh, kaya sobrang blessing talaga. 'Di ko rin akalain eh," he said.
Baltazar had a double-double right in the first half, with 15 points and 14 rebounds as the Green Archers raced to a 44-24 advantage. He continued to pour it on in the second half, repeatedly shrugging off the NU defense.
For Baltazar, it was all about repaying the trust given to him by the La Salle coaches while also showcasing the strides that he has made in his game through constant practice.
"Binibigyan ako ng kumpyansa ng mga coach ko. Kahit na may import sila, may tiwala sila sa akin na kaya kong tapatan sila," he said.
"Sa binibigay nilang kumpyansa sa akin, tina-trabaho ko talaga," he added.
Indeed, Baltazar thoroughly outplayed NU's Issa Gaye, who played only 15 minutes and put up 5 points and 8 rebounds.
Baltazar's next goal now is to perform at a high level consistently. One reason for his superb game against NU is that he felt the need to make up for a subpar outing against University of Santo Tomas in their previous game, when he only scored four points.
"Kung ano 'yung laking tiwala sa akin nila coach, binibigay ko lahat talaga, lahat ng best ko," he said.
"Hindi ko naman magagawa yun kung hindi ako laging sinasabihan nila coach. Minsan kasi, pangit laro ko, minsan maganda. So kailangan umaangat daw ako, hindi daw bumababa," he added. "Makikinig lang ako sa coaches."
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