SEEING Jerrick Balanza back in action is already a blessing on its own for Letran.
Six months removed from his brain surgery and the 21-year-old is back where he belongs as he played his first organized basketball game, playing for 29 minutes for Petron-Letran in the 2019 PBA D-League.
"Syempre sobrang thankful ako, lalo na kay God. Kasi ilan lang yung nabibigyan ng chance, lalo na sa pinagdaanan ko. Ilan lang yung nakakabalik talaga na 100-percent, di ba? So kanina, nung naglalaro kami, sobrang excited ako," he said.
Balanza was so ecstatic to be back on the court that he played out of his norm, going 2-for-13 from the field to notch six points, on top of two rebounds and two steals against five turnovers in the Knights' 96-94 defeat to Che'Lu on Thursday.
"Siguro di ko na na-kontrol yung sarili ko. Alam kong di na ako yung kanina kasi alam kong nakabalik na ako," he confessed.
Still, new head coach Bonnie Tan had the confidence to give the last shot to Balanza.
And even though the 6-foot-2 guard missed the potential game-winner in the waning seconds, Tan is satisfied where the incoming fifth-year guard has performed in his first game back.
"Coming from six months na nag-recover siya sa injury niya, not bad. Hindi pa siya 100-percent. Kita natin sa NCAA kung gaano siya kabilis, kakundisyon. Ngayon, medyo nag-gain weight, but in a few more games, he'll be in shape soon," said the soft-spoken mentor.
Balanza is also giving himself a leeway to work his way back as he'll now be counted on as one of the leaders for the Knights, together with Jeo Ambohot and Larry Muyang.
"Ito yung pinakaunang nilaruan ko talaga na may liga eh, so andun pa yung nangangapa pa ako, may pressure pa sa akin. Minsan natatakot pa rin na ako na matamaan ako, pero siguro mao-overcome ko rin yun," he said. "Siguro next game, ayos na ako talaga. Babawi na lang ako." Rusty Magsakay