STANDING 6-foot-5 and armed with a decent shooting touch, JR Gallarza could have pursued a basketball career in the Philippines after playing out his final year with the UP Fighting Maroons in Season 78.
To be fair, a guy who averaged two points and 2.9 rebounds — a huge drop from his 11.6 points and 6.7 boards last year — will have quite a difficult time finding a slot in the rotation of teams far more stacked than the Maroons.
But when Gallarza packed his bags and returned to Canada shortly after completing his degree at UP, he had accomplished something you rarely see from student athletes nowadays: graduating with honors.
The Maroons forward left his home in Canada not only because he was recruited to play for the Maroons, but to primarily take advantage of a major perk varsity players enjoy — free education.
“College is so expensive back home so I came out here to play basketball and five years later, I’m graduating,” said Gallarza.
Then Gallarza broke the mold of the student athlete. He is in the running for honors — magna cum laude to be exact — in his BEEd Teaching in Early Grades degree.
Though it’s not yet officially confirmed as of this writing as the school year isn’t done yet, Gallarza trusts in the hard work he’s put in his studies.
“For sure, I’ll get cum laude. I’ll be really upset if I don’t,” he said confidently.
In a field where a true student-athlete is a rarity, Gallarza’s excellence in academics is a breath of fresh air, more so since he’s studying in UP, a school known for its strict academic requirements.
“It’s hard. It’s the hardest school in college,” said Gallarza in a 2014 interview. “There is basketball and then you wake up every morning knowing that you have scholarship duties. I have requirements to keep my scholarship.”
Gallarza returned to Canada with his head held high, despite his unsuccessful stint in the UAAP. From the start of his journey, he knew where his priorities lie: to play hard but to study harder to make a better future for him and his son.
But even as he moves on to a new stage of his life, as a father and a teacher, Gallarza will forever cherish the memories he had in UP.
“I’ve achieved so many things that I haven’t dreamed of when I was a kid. I’m blessed to be here and be part of UP,” said Gallarza.