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    NU coach Jeff Napa so proud of the player Baltazar has become

    Mar 29, 2022
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    La Salle center Justine Baltazar pulls up for a jumper against the NU Bulldogs.

    JUSTINE Baltazar will always be grateful to coach Jeff Napa for his first break in the UAAP. And he knows that there's no better way of showing his appreciation for his high school mentor than playing at his best against his team.

    That's exactly what he did in La Salle's 59-55 win over National University and Napa on Tuesday.

    "Ganoon pa rin tulad ng dati, kailangan kong ipakita na maganda ang laro ko," Baltazar said, taking to heart the advice that Napa gave him when they were still together at NU-Nazareth School.

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      Baltazar delivered key hits for the Green Archers down the stretch, scoring seven crucial points in the fourth quarter including the game-sealing three-point play with 21.0 seconds left to cap a 10-3 run that made it a 59-52 affair.

      That capped his solid 13-point, 7-rebound, and 3-assist outing as he once again did the heavy lifting for La Salle.

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      But like what Napa taught him, Baltazar is aware that basketballis a five-a-side sport and he needs the help of his peers to get the W.

      Balti sticks to principles

      It's an adage that Baltazar is living by.

      "Nagtutulungan kami ng teammates ko, kaya kahit medyo late na gumanda ang ilaro ko, nakuha pa rin namin yung panalo. Sobrang thankful din ako sa coaches at sa teammates kasi nagtutulungan lang kaming lahat," he said.

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        For his part, Napa is proud to see how much the gangly 6-foot-7 forward has evolved from that shy, tall kid from Mabalacat, Pampanga to the Gilas Pilipinas stalwart that he is now.

        "Masaya ako sa growth ni Balti. Born winner talaga siya at hindi nagpapatalo kahit ako pa ang kalaban," said the first-year Bulldogs head coach, before joking, "Naka-tsamba siya sa akin ngayon."

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        La Salle center Justine Baltazar pulls up for a jumper against the NU Bulldogs.
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