FUTURE remains uncertain as to where Justine Baltazar's next chapter will be.
But for coach Derick Pumaren, he'll forever be grateful for the sacrifices that the Gilas Pilipinas forward gave in his last run for La Salle this UAAP Season 84.
Pumaren on Justine Baltazar
"We really appreciate Balti’s gesture for still playing his last year," the mentor said after Friday's agonizing 78-74 loss to University of the Philippines in the Final Four.
"He could've been playing sa Japan or turn professional, but he still fulfilled his promise that he will finish his last playing year."
Since suiting up for the national team, Baltazar has garnered offers to play overseas, particularly from Japan B.League, while also gaining significant interest to make the leap to the PBA with many believing that if he indeed makes the jump, should propel him to the top of the list in the annual rookie draft.
Yet the 6-foot-7 forward remained steady in Taft, serving as the leader for this rebuilding Green Archers squad as they returned to the Final Four for the first time since 2017.
He posted 12.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.0 steal, and 1.0 block as he carried La Salle to a no. 3 seed before falling to UP.
Baltazar's final year may have not turned out the way he envisioned, with him graduating without a UAAP crown, but Pumaren said that the Kapampangan will always be a champion in his eyes.
"We were grateful for that and really Balti’s attitude, yun ang pagka-Lasallian niya," he said.
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