For two years, Justine Baltazar waited patiently for his time in the spotlight.
In his first two years in De La Salle University, the 6-foot-7 big man played behind Cameroonian powerhouse Ben Mbala, and thus settled for limited minutes.
With Mbala taking his talents abroad, however, Baltazar’s time has finally come – and the former Juniors Finals MVP is shining under the bright lights of the UAAP. He was the hero for La Salle in their first win of Season 81, and then served as the pillar of strength that propelled them to back-to-back victories.
Against fancied National University last Wednesday, Baltazar had a double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds in just under 27 minutes of action.
Most importantly, he nailed the tough baseline jumper that gave the Green Archers a 78-76 lead with 28 seconds to play. They would go on to shock the Bulldogs, 80-76, for their first win of Season 81.
Four days later, Baltazar scored 16 points, grabbed 14 boards, and blocked three shots to power La Salle to an 82-72 triumph over University of the East.
For his efforts, the young center was recognized as the UAAP Press Corps Player of the Week.
La Salle coach Louie Gonzalez fully expected Baltazar to shine in Season 81 and the coach is thrilled that the big man is responding to the challenge given to him.
“It’s a change of lifestyle for him,” said Gonzalez. “It can’t be only that he’s playing basketball – he also has to take care of himself, and he has to take care of his nutrition, rest, and image.”
“I know this kid was just waiting for his time,” he added. “And this is his time.”
After three games, Baltazar is averaging a double-double of 13.7 points and 11.7 rebounds, along with 1.7 blocks per game for La Salle.