Starting season injured, ‘warrior’ Baltazar winds up Finals MVP

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Mar 04, 2016 07:05 PM
Starting season injured, Baltazar winds up Finals MVP
HARD TO MISS. Justine Baltazar ended his breakout season with championship and Finals MVP trophies.

In the biggest stage of the UAAP 78 Juniors Basketball Tournament, Justine Baltazar still towered above all.

The six-foot seven-inch team captain of Nazareth School of National University posted an eye-popping 16-point, 20-rebound double-double average through three games of the Finals.

With numbers like those, there wasn’t anybody doubting why at the end of it all, the recruit out of Mabalacat, Pampanga was able to carry both the championship and the Finals MVP trophies.

However, more than the numbers tallied and dominance exhibited, it was the heart Baltazar showed throughout that Bullpups mentor Jeff Napa said made him the proudest. As he put it, “Walang nakakaalam sa inyo, pero may injury siya.”

Napa went on to narrate that his man in the middle had a broken left foot before the season began and played through pain during the tournament. “Warrior yung bata e,” he said.

As per the NU coach, the injury only went away near the end of the elimination round. Indeed, come the championship round, Baltazar looked like a man among boys.

For his part, the Finals MVP said it was never an option for him to sit out due to injury. “Makulit talaga ako e. gusto ko tulungan yung teammates ko manalo,” he said.

Having already played his last game as a Bullpup, the freshly-minted champion center said that he is yet to make a decision regarding his future. Asked if it was a possibility for him to come with Napa if the latter’s talks with Colegio de San Juan de Letran turn serious, the former responded, “(Si coach) na po mag-decide. Siya na rin po parang tatay ko.”

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