MAKING his return to the Philippines for the first time since the infamous choking incident with Petron teammate Arwind Santos, Renaldo Balkman didn’t know what to expect from the home crowd.
But as fans cheered him on during the game and patiently waited for him outside the Filoil Flying V Center for photo ops and autographs, Balkman knew that that dark chapter in his career was behind him.
“It felt good. I didn’t expect it but past is past. I did a lot of things since then and tonight, it wasn’t in my head, I just went out there and played basketball,” the former Petron (now San Miguel) import said.
“It felt great. I’m on a mission to win a championship back here. Today was a great day to be back in the Philippines,” he added.
His performance was definitely worth cheering for as he played an instrumental role in Alab Pilipinas’ 90-79 home win over the Westports Malaysia Dragons on Wednesday evening in San Juan.
Shrugging off jetlag and fatigue, Balkman finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds to tow the Philippine side to its second straight win after a horror 0-3 start to the season.
“I arrived here today, about seven in the morning. I didn’t sleep till about 2 (p.m.) and I had to leave by four so I didn’t get much sleep, but I got here and just played,” the Puerto Rican national player said.
“It was tough being on a flight for so long and condition-wise, but after a time, we would just get back to our ways and we’ll be better. I have a lot more basketball in me than what I showed tonight. A little jetlagged, but I still fought through it.”
Now that he’s finally made his grand return to the Philippines and saw how warm he was received, Balkman made clear his intentions of one day maybe making a return trip to the PBA.
But that’s still far from Balkman’s mind as he focuses on his bid for a championship with Alab.
“That’s the goal, but right now, we’re gonna finish the ABL first,” Balkman admitted. “We’re gonna finish this and see where it goes. Right now, it’s about the ABL and we can talk about the PBA later."