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    Baltazar in awe of progress from 'hindi marunong sa poste' to Gilas cadet anchor

    Dec 1, 2020
    PHOTO: Fiba.basketball

    JUSTINE Baltazar remains in disbelief of where his basketball career has taken him, especially after the 6-foot-8 center's stupendous showing for Gilas Pilipinas in the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers in Manama.

    "Sobrang thankful ako kay God dahil naging part ako ng national team. Dati, dream ko lang makalaro dito pero ngayon, natupad na. Sa dinami ng players na gustong makalaro dito, isa pa ako sa napili nila," the La Salle slotman told Spin.ph.

    Baltazar proved to everyone in Bahrain why he is considered the best big man in the collegiate ranks today, manning the paint for the Philippines against the all-pro Thailand frontline.

    He immediately announced his entry with a stellar debut of 12 points, six rebounds, and a block in Gilas' 93-61 win last Friday.

    With the Philippines focusing more on the defensive end on Monday, he did his part and grabbed 11 boards on top of his two points in its 93-69 victory to sweep the two-game series.

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    Those performances prove that Baltazar is truly a keeper for the national team program moving forward.

    Yet one can't fault the Cabalen bruiser for feeling emotional as he looked back on his long road to get here.

    "Isipin mo, unang punta ko ng Manila hindi pa ako marunong maglaro sa poste. Ang ginagawa ko lang, rumerebound lang ako," Baltazar said.

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    "Kaya ang laking pasalamat ko kay coach Jeff (Napa) kasi nung nasa NU ako, ang dami kong natutunan at nag-improve ako sa kanya. Kung di ko ginawa yung mga pinapagawa ng mga coaches ko, sina coach Jeff, coach Louie (Gonzalez), and coach Glenn (Capacio), hindi ako makaaabot dito sa kinatatayuan ko ngayon."

    This Gilas callup was a long time coming for Baltazar, who has watched intently as some of his peers got called up one by one.

    "Sa akin, hinihintay ko lang yung time ko na ma-invite. Sino ba ang hindi gustong maglaro sa Gilas?," he said. "Lahat ng players, gustong makalaro dito at thankful ako na isa ako sa mga napili ngayon."

    The 23-year-old banger, however, knows that he still has ways to improve if he wants to don the national tri-colors anew.

    Baltazar graded himself as an eight for his performance in Bahrain, but knew that there are still facets of the game he can tweak to be better.

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    "Sa team namin, ang role ko lang talaga ay dumepensa at kumuha ng rebound and blocks. Sa akin naman, kailangan ko pang improve siguro yung shooting ko at yung laro ko sa poste. Pero marami naman din kasing scorer sa team namin, so siguro bonus na lang kung maka-score man ako," he said.

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      Baltazar's approach, though, will never change as he will always embrace whatever role is given to him if Gilas calls him up again in the future, hopefully as early as the third window in February next year.

      "Kung mapasama man ulit ako, gagawin ko lang din yung part ko at yung role na ibigay sa akin sa team," he said.
      ___

      For more Gilas updates, click here.

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      PHOTO: Fiba.basketball
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