MANILA, Philippines – Justine Baltazar is raring to prove his worth in his first professional season as an import with the Hiroshima Dragonflies of the Japan B. League.
Formerly a top PBA draft prospect, the 6-foot-7 forward from La Salle will join his fellow Filipino imports Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena, Dwight Ramos, Ray Parks, Kobe Paras, Jordan Heading, and Greg Slaughter in action starting at the last week of September.
Although the Philippines already has a handful of representatives overseas in leagues like the B. League, the Korean Basketball League (KBL), and the Taiwan leagues, Baltazar wants more talented Filipino ballers to try out their luck away from home.
“As long as there’s good opportunity, it will help us explore and enhance our basketball skills,” he said in a livestreamed press conference on Monday, August 22.
Following the success of the first Filipino B. League import contingent in the 2021-2022 season, more Pinoy standouts seized the opportunity to represent the country overseas.
This year alone, six Filipinos have already joined the KBL after having none last year, namely RJ Abarrientos, Rhenz Abando, Will Navarro, Justin Gutang, Ethan Alvano, and the pioneer import SJ Belangel.
“We would definitely love to spread and share our talents,” Baltazar continued.
Prior to joining the B. League, Baltazar honed his craft further during his final collegiate season with the Green Archers, where he earned his third straight Mythical Five citation.
He then returned to the National Basketball League-Philippines’ (NBL) Pampanga Delta – this time a professional team – and led his home province to a title three-peat that also won him Finals MVP honors.
As he takes his talents further up north in Japan, Baltazar still made sure to reaffirm his steady commitment with the Gilas Pilipinas national team, where he evolved his skill set and played with fellow B. Leaguers like the Ravenas, Parks, and Ramos.
“My experience and learnings with Gilas Pilipinas shaped me a lot and it will help me a lot to my new team here in Japan,” he said.
“[My Gilas teammates] have been very supportive of my plans and decision. I’m grateful for their support.”
Baltazar can make his B. League debut on October 1 as Hiroshima hosts the Yokohama B-Corsairs. – Rappler.com