RENALDO Balkman's initial plans of returning to San Miguel Alab Pilipinas may not have panned out, but that won't stop him from gunning to win another title for the country, this time for Mighty Sports.
"It feels great to be back in the Philippines, representing the Philippines again in another tournament," he said. "I love basketball, and as long as I get a chance to get on the court and play basketball and show my skills and what I can do, I'm gonna do it."
"You know, the Philippines is the second home for me and I love it. So once again, I had an opportunity, I took it, and now I'm here."
Balkman serves as one of the three reinforcements for the Mighty squad, backed by Creative Pacific of Bong Cuevas, Go for Gold, Oriental Group, Discovery Primea, and Gatorade, as it returns to the Middle East for the 2020 Dubai International Basketball Tournament from January 23 to February 1 at the Shabab Al Ahli Club.
The Philippine club finished in third place last year, and with the Puerto Rican forward around, it is hoping to win it all this time.
What makes this run more special for Balkman is he'll be playing side-by-side with naturalized center Andray Blatche in this foray.
"He's like my brother. You don't call some other people your brother. And I've known him for a long time," he said. "He's a great player and a great person that's in my heart."
Blatche is coming in with motivations of his own as he looks to redeem himself from a forgettable run with Gilas Pilipinas in the 2019 Fiba World Cup in China.
Balkman, though, believes that their partnership would only mean problem for the opposition.
"To be with him on my side, it's gonna be hard for other teams to stop us," the 35-year-old said. "Y'all know we can score. I can score and we get two different intangibles on the court. And that duo right there with us on the inside and other imports on the outside and the wings, it's gonna be hard to stop."
Aside from the two, beefing up the squad are imports McKenzie Moore and Jelan Kendrick.
They will be backstopping a youth-laden Mighty crew, which also features upstarts Kai Sotto, Thirdy Ravena, Dave Ildefonso, Jamie Malonzo, and brothers Juan and Javi Gomez de Liano.
Also part of the team are Rain or Shine forward Beau Belga, Fil-Am guard Mikey Williams, veteran guard Joseph Yeo, as well as Gab Banal, Jarrell Lim, and Joaqui Manuel.
As promising as the team is, Balkman himself knows that all those potential will be moot if the team won't develop the chemistry it needs to compete against its foes.
"If there's one thing we have to do, it's that to play together and play smart. And I think if we do that, we'll be the best team out there," he said. "That's one thing we gotta do: play smart, play hard. We definitely got a chance to win the championship."