He lost a piece of his brain, but Jerrick Balanza's big heart remains

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Feb 28, 2019 08:10 PM
He lost a piece of brain, but Balanza's big heart remains
Jerrick Balanza played his first organized game in six months

Jerrick Balanza played 29 minutes and had six points for Petron-Letran in their first game in the 2019 PBA D-League on Thursday at the Ynares Arena in Pasig.

However, the Knights suffered a setback in their new era with head coach Bonnie Tan at the helm.

Still, the Intramuros-based squad was only in high spirits post-game.

And why wouldn’t they because against all odds, Balanza was back with the team and back in action.

Last September, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and not long after, he had surgery to have it removed.

That cut short the 6-foot-2 wingman’s campaign in the NCAA 94 and he spent the rest of September all the way to February recovering.

Now, Balanza is back in action – and is nothing but grateful to be here. “Siyempre, sobrang thankful ako, lalo na kay God kasi ilan lang ba yung nabibigyan ng chance na makabalik lalo na sa pinagdaanan ko,” he told reporters after.

He then continued, “So kanina, sobrang excited ko. Kaya rin siguro ‘di ko nakontrol yung sarili ko.”

The now 21-year-old was referring to his last shot that would have won the game for Petron-Letran.

Coming off a screen and getting a good look from behind the arc, he hoisted up a triple that only got to graze the front of the ring.

According to coach Bonnie, they really designed that play for Balanza – even though this was his first organized game in six months. “Last shot, that was for him. Coming from nagre-recover siya sa injury niya, not bad kasi nga, hindi pa siya 100 percent,” he shared.

He then continued, “Nakita na naman naitn sa NCAA kung gaano siya kakundisyon. Ngayon, medyo nag-gain ng weight, pero a few more games, he’ll be back in shape.”

The fact that the returning wing even took that shot is a good sign. “The last shot of Jerrick, for me, is a sign of how big his heart is. Matapang siya and yun naman yung gusto naming makita,” new assistant coach LA Tenorio said.

And if there’s one person who knows a thing or two about clutch shots, that would be Tenorio.

In the end, Balanza vowed to only keep getting over the hump that came out of nowhere in his young career. “Ito yung pinakaunang nilaruan ko na liga so andun yung nangangapa pa ako. Minsan, natatako pa rin akong matamaan, pero ma-oovercome ko rin yun,” he said.

He then continued, “Next games, ayos na ako talaga.”

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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