STA. ROSA, Laguna — Renaldo Balkman thanked San Miguel Alab Pilipinas coach Jimmy Alapag for giving him a chance to redeem himself in the Philippines.
Balkman said he was glad Alapag opened the door for his return to the Philippines to play in the Asean Basketball League (ABL), five years after he was banned for life from the PBA for choking teammate Arwind Santos in a PBA Commissioner’s Cup game with Petron.
“It was a dream come true for me. Five years since I played here, I wouldn’t think I was coming back. I got a call one day, and it was Jimmy, out of the blue,” said Balkman, a former NBA player and a mainstay of the Puerto Rican national team.
Alapag said he spoke to Balkman during the 2014 Fiba World Cup in Seville, Spain when Gilas Pilipinas played against Puerto Rico.
“I remembered our conversation during the World Cup in 2014. Towards the end of the tournament, he said, ‘Hey, man. If you ever get to this coaching thing, you have my number,’” said Alapag.
Balkman did hear from Alapag four years later.
“He was a man of his word. He kept his word,” Balkman said.
Balkman capped his ABL campaign this season in a big way, scoring 21 of his 32 points in the first half and adding nine rebounds and six assists as Alab Pilipinas closed out Mono Vampire of Thailand with a 102-92 win in the winner-take-all Game Five.
Balkman played down redemption was a motivation in his return.
“Past is the past for me. I have a bright future. We have a championship,” Balkman said. “I told you since Day 1 that we are going to put on a show. Our focus was on one goal and that is to win the championship. Every day, we worked hard."