FIBA World Cup

Baltazar committed to La Salle, begs off from Gilas duty

Naveen Ganglani
Baltazar committed to La Salle, begs off from Gilas duty

NATIONAL PLAYER. Justine Baltazar hopes he gets another chance to play for the Philippine team.

FIBA

La Salle coach Derrick Pumaren says the Green Archers are training in a bubble setup, making it difficult for Justine Baltazar to attend Gilas practices

MANILA, Philippines – La Salle stalwart Justine Baltazar won’t see action for Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers this February.

La Salle coach Derrick Pumaren confirmed to Rappler on Friday, February 4, that Baltazar has committed to train with the Green Archers and has begged off from national team duty in the coming months.

The development came after new Philippine men’s basketball national team head coach Chot Reyes named Baltazar as one of the collegiate players Gilas Pilipinas looks to tap. 

“Justine is currently immersed in our school bubble and actually turned down two offers from Japan to play his final year with La Salle and graduate,” Pumaren said.

“The Filoil preseason tournament will begin in a few weeks and our team is gearing for it as only then will our players be finally playing together against competition.”

The Green Archers are currently in a bubble setup at the DLSU campus in preparation for what’s expected to be the opening of the UAAP Season 84 men’s basketball tournament in March. 

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Reyes, who succeeded Tab Baldwin as head coach of Gilas this week, mentioned in a media interview that he’s in talks with the representation of both Baltazar and UP Fighting Maroons standout Carl Tamayo with the hope that both former national team players will be allowed by their universities to participate in the national team’s FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers in February.

Pumaren explains that because of the many new faces on La Salle’s roster and Baltazar needing to finish his units to graduate, his focus will remain in Taft Avenue.

“More than half of our team are new to La Salle so a lot of jelling has to be done,” the veteran head coach said. “Balti is our main man and it would be difficult to develop chemistry without him. Besides, he needs to be close to school at our dorm, as his studies are closely monitored to be on schedule for graduation.” 

“The UAAP is strictly enforcing health and safety protocols so Balti is restricted from leaving our bubble, making it difficult for him to attend Gilas practices,” Pumaren added.

“For these reasons, Balti has decided to beg off from playing for Gilas in the February FIBA window.”

Baltazar was instrumental in Gilas’ performance at the Clark bubble last year, displaying renowned perimeter skills for a local big man under the tutelage of Baldwin.

Pumaren clarified that the player he expects to be the leader of his locker room is nevertheless thankful for all the national team experience and what could possibly be more to come.

“After the UAAP, I’m sure he’ll be excited to rejoin Gilas if the opportunity comes,” Pumaren said.

“Balti is grateful for his Gilas experience and appreciates the SBP’s support in giving him the opportunity to play for our country. It’s something he will forever cherish… he hopes there will be opportunities in the near future where he can once again represent our country.”

The Philippine team is slated to take on South Korea, India, and New Zealand in Manila. – Rappler.com