NATIONAL University took a chance on Justine Baltazar when he was nothing.
Even the 6-foot-7 center admits that even though he's already repping La Salle, facing his old alma mater will always be special for him.
"Pumunta ako sa NU na di ako marunong pumoste, rebound lang ako," he said.
Look where Baltazar is now - one of the best young centers in the collegiate ranks today. And he knows he wouldn't have gotten where he is right now if not for Jeff Napa.
"Si coach Jeff pa rin ang motivation ko," he said of his former Bullpups coach who also fulfills the role of an assistant to Jamike Jarin on the Bulldogs bench.
"Malaking tulong binigay talaga niya sa akin eh. Inspirasyon ko pa rin siya kaya iniisip ko pag kalaban sila, maganda laro ko para mapakita ko sa kanyang lahat ng tinuro niya sa akin, nandoon pa rin."
Baltazar has lived up to his words back in the first round with a 23-point, 10-rebound performance in the Green Archers' 83-82 thriller over the Bulldogs last Sept. 11.
But on Sunday, the Kapampangan bruiser took his game to the next level, firing 25 points and grabbing 25 rebounds to go with two assists, and two blocks to lead La Salle to a 76-46 win over NU.
The showing was totally unexpected for the 22-year-old La Salle slotman.
"Hindi talaga. Trabaho lang talaga ako," he said. "Kailangan kong tulungan yung mga teammate ko lalo na yung mga rookies kaya ganoon na kalaki yung tiwala sa akin ni coach. Binibigay ko talaga lahat ng best ko."
Napa, however, was the least surprised by his former player's 25-25 game.
"Yung effort ng bata, simula't sapul nung makuha namin siya, yung attitude, di nagbabago. That's why bine-bless siya," said the mentor, who coached Baltazar in the Nazareth School of National University side that won a championship back in 2016.