ONE year removed from the brain injury that momentarily derailed his career, Jerrick Balanza is just grateful to once again be back on the court and possibly a better version of himself.
"Sobrang saya ko kasi binigyan ako ng isang taon pa. Mina-maximize ko lang lahat ng meron ako," he said.
The senior forward sure has made the most of this new lease on life, averaging 17.4 points, 3.6 assists, and 3.0 rebounds through Letran's campaign this NCAA Season 95.
And on Friday, Balanza upped the ante as he ignited the Knights' 88-64 drubbing of St. Benilde to gain their most convincing win of the season.
But the 24-point rout should be credited for the leadership the 6-foot-2 scorer has exemplified, uniting his wards as they finally churned out their best game of the season just before the end of the first round.
"Every time na malapit game namin, sinasabihan ko ang teammates ko na kailangan namin manalo. Nage-ensayo kami para manalo kaya credit din sa teammates ko dahil nung bakasyon namin, pukpok talaga kami. Lumabas talaga kanina lahat ng pinaghirapan namin," he said after pouring a game-high 26 points in the victory.
Even coach Bonnie Tan could only thank Balanza for owning up to the captaincy vested on him, lauding the Manila-born dribbler for commanding respect to his wards but most importantly, improving his skills on the court.
"Sabi ko sa kanya, yung mga comments sa kanya sa practice, wag niya personalin kundi pag-aralan na lang and matutunan yung mga corrections," said the soft-spoken mentor of Balanza, who turned 23 on Friday.
"Good things will happen, sinasabi ko parati sa kanila. So we just have to lessen yung mga bad habits. Luckily, ewan ko kung birthday nya lang ngayon, but I'm positive na Jerrick will blossom pa sa year na ito."