SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga — Another product of Delta Pineda’s Pampanga basketball program is set to make waves.
In just a few months, Justine Baltazar will be showcasing his wares in the B.League after signing with the Hiroshima Dragonflies.
It’s the biggest break received by any of Pineda’s boys that includes the likes of Arwind Santos, Calvin Abueva, and Ian Sangalang.
“The rest naman ‘yung mga batang mga Kapampangan na inalagaan natin bata, nandun na sa magandang sitwasyon,” said Pineda after steering Pampanga to its third straight NBL-Pilipinas title last Sunday at the Bren Z. Guiao Center here. “Lahat yan pantay-pantay lang kaya ‘yung saya natin na nakakatulong tayo sa mga batang walang-wala namahirap.
“Pero ngayon napa-angat natin ang buhay, because dito sa paniniwala natin sa basketball.”
Baltazar playing overseas was never part of the plan admitted Pineda.
It only came about when former Gilas program director Tab Baldwin gave the 6-foot-8 big man out of La Salle a chance to play for the national team last year.
Impressive was Baltazar in both the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers and the Olympic Qualifying Tournament-Belgrade and it drew the eyes of scouts in Asia.
“Nagkaroon lang talaga ng break because of FIBA, because of Coach Tab [Baldwin] nabigyan ng break ‘yung bata, nakita ng international. So, right now nung in-offer for Japan, hindi ako nag dalawang-isip na payagan siya,” said Pineda.
Playing in the B.League is not just an opportunity to improve further. It is also a chance for him to lift his family as well.
For Pineda, it was high time for the 25-year-old Baltazar to invest in himself and give his family the stable future they deserve.
“Masaya ako lasi nabibigyan ng opportunidad ‘yung bata, makakapag-ipon na siya ng maayos,” continued Pineda.
“I mean right time na para isipin ni Balti ‘yung para sa pamilya niya makapag-ipon siya.”
Before leaving, Baltazar made sure to give back to his mentor by leading the province to another championship.
It’s that trait of Baltazar that has endeared him so well to Pineda.
“Si Balti, dahil Kapampangan yan, ‘yung obligasyon niya sa Pampanga gagawin niya. Kaya kung titignan ninyo kahit naging FIBA player yan, eto pa rin ‘yung obligasyon niya sa Pampanga ‘yun pa rin ang inuna niya.”
Now, the father and the son will have to be apart from each other.
Pineda hopes that it stays that way for the meantime because that will mean that Baltazar is performing well in Japan.
“Di ko masabi, depends sa offer ng international. Kung maganda pa rin ang offer for the next season, tuloy pa rin siya sa labas.”