JERRICK Balanza has always been the silent leader, the first to calm the fort for Letran especially this NCAA Season 95.
But he hardly looked like the prim and proper captain in Game One as he wasn't shy in letting his energy out in the leadup to the Finals opener.
"Ang ingay ko sa dorm dahil talagang feel ko, mananalo kami," he shared. "Sabi nila, 'Bat ang ingay mo?' Ito ngang si Fran (Yu), natutulog pa siya pero sabi niya, 'Ang ingay mo naman!' Sabi ko, 'Pare, mananalo tayo ngayon! Mananalo tayo! Excited na ako!' Nainis din sila sa akin eh."
Balanza's guts proved to be true, with Letran inflicting San Beda its first defeat of the season with a 65-64 squeaker on Wednesday to gain a 1-0 lead in the championship series.
He did his damage with 10 points and four rebounds as he was a part of a balanced Knights attack that allowed them to stop the Red Lions' 32-game win streak.
"Talagang positive kami kasi buo kami eh. Kahit tignan mo sa stats, simula nung pumasok kami ng stepladder, ginive up na namin yung pride namin," he said, undaunted of him missing out on a Mythical Team selection as Letran returned to the Finals for the first time since 2015.
"Sabi ko, kahit sinong mag-best player sa atin, okay lang basta nananalo tayo. Best player si Fran? Wala sa akin yun dahil team kami. Sinasabi sa amin ni coach, 'Aanhin niyo yung awards? Wala namang Mythical Team sa inyo. Pero tayo pa rin naman yung maglalaro ng Finals.' May award ka nga, wala ka naman sa finals, so wala rin."
There's probably nothing more you could do to motivate someone like Balanza, who's been toughened by his life experiences that included a dangerous brain surgery last year. The fact that he's back on the court and playing better than ever is already a success in itself.
And he's drawing inspiration from those who believed in him when he was at his lowest, all the more now that he's one win away from graduating a two-time champion.
"Binalikan ko lahat ng nangyari sa akin. Tiningnan ko lahat ng naniwala sa akin na makakabalik ako at doon ako na-motivate," said the 6-foot-2 guard, with the prospects of a Letran triumph giving him one ring more than his seniors from the 2015 championship squad.
"Nakita ko nga yung mga kuya ko nung 2015 championship, sinigawan ko sila na, 'It’s nice to be back!' Mas mayabang pa ako sa kanila kasi makaka-dalawa ako ngayon eh."
Don't count on Balanza subduing those emotions soon, especially with the Knights going for the jugular on Friday against the wounded but not unbowed Red Lions.
"Di ko mapipigilan yan. Sa ensayo pa lang, ilalabas ko na talaga (yung energy ko) eh," he said. "Pero sinabi sa akin ni coach Bonnie (Tan), di pa tapos. Di tayo pwedeng mag-enjoy dahil syempre, may isa pa. Kailangan naming mag-trabaho, docus na, bugbugan na ulit. Alam naman namin na di ibibigay ng San Beda nang madali yun."