Former Letran head coach Aldin Ayo expressed his satisfaction with how Jerrick Balanza has evolved, which has been turning beneficial in Petron-Letran’s campaign in the 2019 PBA D-League.
Ayo coached the 6-foot-2 combo guard back in 2015, the year he steered the Knights to their first NCAA Seniors Basketball title in 10 years. Back then, Balanza had just been a rookie from the Squires program.
The two met once more on Thursday afternoon at the Ynares Sports Arena for D-League action, when Ayo’s Ironcon-University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers took on Petron-Letran.
There, Ayo witnessed Balanza explode for a season-high 34 points along with nine rebounds and two steals to power the Knights to a 114-101 win, dealing UST their first loss of the season.
“Kung titignan mo si Jerrick, yung laro niya nung first year niya to ngayon, he has improved a lot,” Ayo said.
But more than the growth in terms of being a reliable option, what Ayo really likes the most about Balanza is his leadership traits, which Ayo had already seen during his time in Letran.
“Pero yung isang trait, yung isang character na nagustuhan ko sa kanya is yung pagiging leader. May trait siya ng pagiging leader, just like when I was handling Mark Cruz and Kevin Racal.
“This is his fifth year, makikita mo yung bata na he takes over eh,” he said.
Balanza’s level of play right now has been remarkable, given the fact that he’d just had brain surgery six months ago. But the decorated college coach isn’t surprised to see him doing well.
“Nandun sa kanya yun eh. Buhay niya yun eh. Na whatever happens, for sure he’s going to hold a basketball.
“Kahit anong pagdaanan ng bata, for sure he’s going to do his best to excel on what he does,” gushed Ayo.
Meanwhile, Balanza is aware of the role he has to fulfill, but the incoming fifth-year veteran expressed confidence that being a leader won’t be that hard as he trusts all his fellow Knights.
“Siyempre ako, tiwala naman ako sa mga teammates ko na magse-step up yung mga yan eh.”
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