Ever since he was cleared to go out, Jerrick Balanza has made sure to watch the Letran Knights on the sidelines. And for their part, the Knights drew inspiration from their brother-in-arms.
Unfortunately though, the clock struck midnight for the Knights last October 6 as the Lyceum Pirates proved to be too much.
“Sobrang proud ako sa mga coaches at teammates namin. Wala na akong masabi kasi pinakita na nila kung anong meron sila,” expressed the fourth-year Letranite, who is recovering from an operation to remove a brain tumor.
“Ganoon talaga, na-short kami. Bawi talaga next year.”
The 6-foot-1 swingman, who averaged 7.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in nine games played, was itching to step onto the court when the Pirates had been blowing the game wide open. And he will use this as motivation once he returns next year.
“Pag-upo ko pa lang sa ringside, na-feel ko agad yung atmosphere ng Final Four. Huling naramdaman ko yun 2015,” recalled the one-time NCAA champion. “As a player, gusto ko maglaro, pero alam naman natin na di pwede eh.
“Wala din akong magawa kung hindi maghintay.”
Third-year Knights head coach Jeff Napa is looking at Balanza to lead this team come Season 95. And he can’t wait to coach him once again.
“Next year kasi, I think, definitely Jerrick will be one hundred-percent na siya eh.
“I think January good-to-go na siya. Nandiyan pa naman si Bonbon [Batiller]. Nandyan din si Larry [Muyang], pati si Christian [Fajarito]. Nandiyan din pa naman si Jeo [Ambohot] so pretty confident naman ako dun sa maiiwan eh,” disclosed Napa.
With another loaded lineup next season and a wealth of experience to back it up, Balanza is optimistic about their chances next year.
“Siyempre ako, as a senior, confident ako kasi kaya naman namin pagtrabahuan eh. Yung pagkawala ng mga senior namin, pagtatrabahuan namin para mapunan yung kawalan nila,” the 23-year-old shared. “Buo pa rin kami na makakapasok sa Final Four.
“Siguro next year, masasabi ko ngayon pa lang, hindi lang Final Four kasi ramdam na namin kung gaano kahirap ang Final Four. Alam na namin kung paano namin tatagusin ito next year. Expect ninyo na magfa-Finals ang Letran next year talaga.”
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