ATENEO may have recruited teen sensation Kai Sotto, but rival De La Salle has brought in not just one but two giants from Pampanga in Justin Baltazar and Jay Pangalangan.
Top basketball patron Dennis Pineda told SPIN.ph that his two young discoveries have already committed to the Taft-based squad, bringing added size and security to the Green Archers' future.
The 6-8 Baltazar is the former star of the National University Bullpups, averaging 13.4 points, 13.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.4 blocks per game in leading his team to the UAAP Season 78 juniors title. He was later named Finals MVP.
On the other hand, Pangalangan is the 6-9 teenager who was introduced to the basketball world in 2014, long before the 13-year-old Sotto gained his share of attention owing to his height and promise.
“Si Justin, nasa training pool na siya ng La Salle. Wala na siya sa NU,” said Pineda, who also guided the careers of other PBA stars like Arwind Santos, Calvin Abueva, Japeth Aguilar and Ian Sangalang.
Pineda, however, said it may take a while before Baltazar can play for La Salle as he is still required to take the ALS (Alternative Learning System) test so he can skip his last two remaining high school years, as required under K-12.
“Pupwede siyang ma-lineup pero kumporme yun sa exam niya sa ALS. Kung ang result eh hindi siya pumasa, balik siya ng high school dito sa Pampanga,” he said.
“Grade 10 pa lang siya ngayon eh. Two years ang mawawala sa kanya dahil sa K-12, so kung di siya papasa, obligadong tapusin niya ang high school dito sa Pampanga,” added the soft-spoken Pampanga vice governor.
Pineda also revealed that Pangalangan is now taking part in the training of the Green Archers under NCAA champion coach Aldin Ayo along with another Pampangueno player, Larry Muyang.
“Andun na rin si Jay-Jay (Pangalangan) sa La Salle, kasama nya 'yung isa ko pang player na si Larry Muyang,” he said.
The partnership between the Pinedas and the De La Salle basketball organization was forged by the Green Archers’ chief backer, former Ambassador Danding Cojuangco.
“Alam naman ng NU 'yun na high school, sa kanila ang players namin, pero pagtuntong nila ng college, lilipat na sila sa La Salle, alam ni boss Hans Sy yun. Sa mga Sy kasi ang commitment ng mga juniors ko,” he said.
“Malaki kasi ang utang na loob namin kay Boss Danding dahil ang laki ng naitulong niya sa mga basketball players namin dito sa Pampanga, kaya pagdating ng seniors (years ng players namin), siya (Cojuangco) pa rin ang priority,” added the son of Pampanga governor Lilia Pineda.
Pineda also bared that there's more where these giants came from.
Pampanga’s Under-16 team, culled from a pool supported by the Pinedas, ruled the inaugural Cloudfone Batang PBA national finals over the weekend.
Watch highlights from Baltazar and Pangalangan: