NO PBA Rookie Draft plans yet for Justine Baltazar.
That was the statement given by no less than Baltazar’s longtime patron and Pampanga governor Dennis 'Delta' Pineda, who also happens to be the newly designated team manager of PBA ballclub Converge.
The sports patron revealed that though Converge has secured a first-round pick of TNT by way of a trade with Blackwater on Tuesday, they still have no plans of bringing Baltazar to a local pro league.
READ: Converge gets Ebona, first-round pick from Blackwater in exchange for Ilagan, Hill, DiGregorio
“Hindi pa (siya mag-PBA), kasi marami pa siyang offers abroad. We feel that exposing him to tournaments in Asia will be beneficial for both Justine and Philippine basketball,”said Pineda who is also behind the rise of a host of Pampanga-born players like Calvin Abueva, Ian Sangalang and former PBA MVP Arwind Santos.
One of the top players of Gilas Pilipinas, the 6-7 Baltazar had a forgettable stint in the Japan B.League with the Hiroshima Butterflies, who hardly played its Asian import before releasing him from his contract.
Pineda explained the premature Japan exit of his ward as well as the decision to let him join the Strong Group's team in the coming Dubai Invitational.
“Pinayagan ko muna siya maglaro sa Strong Group Philippines kasi mae-expose ulit si Justine dun. Aminin natin hindi maganda yung pagkakabangko nya sa Japan,” said Pineda. “Nakakalungkot nangyari sa kanya dun kaso di naman natin masisisi, atleast na-release agad."
Asked if Baltazar’s disappointing campaign in the B.League was a reflection of immaturity or lack of competence for the former Dela Salle Green Archer star forward, Pineda had a curt reply.
“Hindi naman sa hindi ready si Justine, nagkataon lang na 'yung team na kumuha sa kanya sa Japan, loaded din tapos yung world import nila, Amerikano, kapwestuhan pa ni Justine,” said the Pampanga governor.
“Saka ang Amerikano na 'yun mas matangkad tapos mas malaki pa ang katawan nung isa,” Pineda said referring to Fireflies reinforcement Kerry Blackshear.
The Fireflies also has another American import in 6-7 Dwayne Evans.
“Paano makakakuha ng break at playing time si Justine dun?” said Pineda.
Baltazar's case should serve as a lesson to agents of players aspiring to play overseas, Pineda said.
“Payo ko sa mga Filipino players at agents, alamin muna nila line-up ng teams na kukuha sa kanila abroad, wag basta pirma nang pirma,” he said.
“Kasi malaki nga sweldo mo, wala ka namang playing time, masisira lang career mo kasi bababa ang kumpiyansa mo at tiwala sa sarili,” said Pineda, who also helps the careers of collegiate stars Joshua Miclat and Kevin Santos (Letran) as well as NU Bulldogs’ Jolo Manansala and Michael Malonso.
Pineda bared that after Baltazar’s stint with the Strong Group team at the Dubai International from January 27 to December 5, he will immediately fly to Korea to join his new team.
“Saka ko na reveal yung team. Nakapirma na siya pero ayaw ko muna pre-empt yung announcement ng team,” said Pineda.