NOT lost on Alex Compton is how good a player Renaldo Balkman still is.
Although still a deputy to then Alaska coach Luigi Trillo back then, Compton was left impressed by Balkman in the first and only time the Aces played San Miguel (then carrying the Petron Blaze colors) during the 2013 PBA Commisioner’s Cup.
“Balkman is a top-rate import and an NBA-level player,” he said of the 33-year-old Puerto Rican.
That lone encounter five years ago proved to be a memorable one.
Of course, Alaska beat SMB, 83-73, in that battle for the top spot back in 2013 that proved to be the last time Balkman would play in the league after the import snapped following an apparent non-call in the waning minutes. The incident led to that now infamous choking incident between Balkman and Petron teammate Arwind Santos that prompted the league to impose a lifetime ban on the Puerto Rican on top of a hefty P250,000 fine.
Fast forward to present, Balkman has been reinstated and will resume his stint with San Miguel that was cut short by that ugly episode in league history.
Ironically, the former New York Knicks first-round pick will play his PBA comeback game on Saturday opposite the same team he faced the last time he suited up for the SMC franchise.
Compton, now the man at the helm of the Aces, said his impression of Balkman hasn't changed all these years.
“He will bring energy, rebounding, scoring, leadership, and veteran smarts to SMB,” he said of what he’s expecting from the 6-foot-8 import on Saturday when they tangle against the Aces in Dumaguete City.
The defending champions have yet to register a win in two outings, which prompted the call-up for Balkman, who the Alaska coach could only hope will still try to feel his way back playing for his old team.
“We will just have to hope he is still adjusting to their system when we play them on Saturday,” said Compton. “SMB is the favorite every conference and we will have to be at our very best in Dumaguete.”
Alaska is currently in second spot with a 3-1 record, and is coming off a huge 110-100 victory over the Katropa last Sunday.