ANTIPOLO — Justine Baltazar believes that his inclusion as one of the eight amateurs in the 24-man Gilas Pilipinas pool for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games is a testament to the hardwork he has put through his time with La Salle.
"Dati, nagpapa-picture lang ako. Dream ko talaga ito," the 6-foot-7 center said.
"Syempre sa dinami-dami ng players na gustong makapaglaro dito, na-mention nila ako. Yun pa lang, malaking honor na para sa akin."
Yet as much as Baltazar has established himself as one of the best young big men in the amateurs, his name cropping up still came as a surprise to him.
"Nagulat na lang ako," he said. "First time ko ito. Natuwa talaga ako na may nakakakita pala sa akin."
Baltazar earned a UAAP Mythical Team selection last season and continues to dominate the paint for the Green Archers this year, averaging 16.2 points, 12.4 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.2 assists through five games.
He once again showed his worth on Saturday in La Salle's 68-61 win over Adamson, pouring 21 points, 14 rebounds, two assists and two blocks to lead the way for the Green Archers.
But he knows that earning a spot for the national team is a different challenge altogether as he vowed to bring his A-game when the training begins.
"Goal ko talaga makapaglaro sa ganoon. Gusto ko ma-experience yung international game," said Baltazar, who will be joined by Isaac Go and 17-year-old prodigy Kai Sotto as the bigs from the amateurs.
"Kung papalarin ako, malaking tulong ito. Kung ma-line up, ibibigay ko talaga lahat para sa bayan."