FOR Justine Baltazar, 2016 was definitely a memorable one.
Baltazar was a towering figure in National University’s run to the Season 78 title in the UAAP juniors when the Bullpups defeated De La Salle Zobel in the finals to cap his high school career last February.
Baltazar later moved to La Salle where he savored championship success as a rookie role player in the Green Archers side that swept Ateneo in the best-of-three title series in December.
Naturally, Baltazar was elated to be part of two championships in one year.
“Masaya po dahil rookie ko pa lang sa college, first time ko maglaro (sa UAAP), nag-champion kami,” said Baltazar.
In his first season with the Green Archers, Baltazar played quality minutes in the center position as back-up to Season MVP Ben Mbala.
In 14 games of the elimination round, Baltazar averaged 3.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks (second to Mbala) for the Green Archers.
Baltazar said Mbala has been a big help in his transition from the high school game to the college, being his constant sparring partner in practices.
“Sobrang laki po kasi kabantayan ko sa practice, ina-advise din niya ako magpalakas,” said Baltazar.
Unlike in high school, Baltazar may have played limited minutes this season in La Salle’s championship run, but the 6-foot-8 Pampanga native knows the value of patience.
“Siguro po hintayin ko lang ‘yung mga seniors. First year ko pa lang naman. Hindi ako nagmamadali,” he said.