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Strong Group signs Baltazar, Gozum, two Blue Eagles for Dubai tilt


Strong Group continues to beef up its roster heading to the 32nd Dubai International Basketball Tournament set from January 27 to February 5.

The Jacob Lao-owned team has added Justine Baltazar, Will Gozum, BJ Andrade, and Inand Fornilos to its team.

Baltazar, a 6-foot-9 all-around forward, previously played for Hiroshima in the B.League.

“Balti is going to be big for us, he wasn’t given much of a chance in Japan but the kid is a great player and I plan to use him as a big wing and power forward,” said head coach Charles Tiu as Baltazar only played a total of 13 minutes during his two-month stint with the Dragonflies.

“But, of course, it all remains to be seen on how it will look when we start practicing.”

Lao was able to get Baltazar due to his family being close with Gov. Delta Pineda, the adviser of Baltazar.

“We are very grateful to Gov. Delta for allowing Balti to play with us in this tournament. He has a great relationship with Boss Jacob and thats the reason why this is possible,” added Tiu.

Gozum, meanwhile, is a 6-foot-7 forward who is the reigning NCAA Most Valuable Player.

Despite Gozum being a player of Tiu in College of Saint Benilde, the young head coach said that Gozum still needs to earn his spot.

“Will will have to compete with the other guys for his minutes. It’s a whole different ball game and he’s playing the same position as the imports, but let’s see how he will fare,” said Tiu.

Meanwhile, Andrade and Fornillos are former teammates of Lao in Ateneo.

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Andrade was the captain of the Blue Eagles in UAAP Season 85 while Fornilos and Lao were part of the legendary La Salle Green Hills team that won it all in NCAA Season 93.

“We are glad to have a four-time UAAP champion in BJ Andrade and the championship experience of an athletic 3-and-D guy in Inand Fornilos,” said Lao.

“They’re all winners in their own ways and their experience will surely help the team for them. But very excited for all the because it is a rare opportunity for these players to further grow and learn a new style of play internationally.”

Also in the team are Nick Young, Renaldo Balkman, Angelo Kouame, and Sedrick Barefield.

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