This year, 6’7” veteran Justine Baltazar will take the lead for the La Salle Green Archers when the 82nd University Athletic Association of the Philippines men’s basketball tournament gets under way next week.
Baltazar, who averaged 13.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, and 1.3 assists in 27.6 minutes, and was selected to the Mythical Team last season, will bring experience and leadership to the team.
Much is expected from Baltazar now that team captain Andrei Caracut has graduated.
This season, the Green Archers will be in a unique situation since they will be the only team that is without a foreign student-athlete.
Last year, Kiwi cager Taane Samuel manned the middle for the Green Archers before he went out because of an injury.
Joining Baltazar in the roster is Filipino-Australian Brandon Bates, shooter Ralph Cu and newbie Christian Manaytay. There will also be a trio of Filipino-foreigners, 6’9” James Laput, 6’7” Jamie Orme, 6-foot Keyshawn Evans.
Baltazar, who is playing out of Pampanga, will be challenged when he matches up with the bigs of other rival schools, such as 6’11” Congolese Lenda Douanga of Adamson University, 6’10” Ivorian Ange Kouame of Ateneo de Manila University and 6’7” Emman Odjuola of Far Eastern University.
He should also watch out for 6’10” Senegalese Issa Gaye of National University, 6’9” Senegalese Adama Diakhite of University of the East, 6’8” Nigerian Bright Akhuetie of the University of the Philippines and 6’6” Beninese Soulemane Chabi Yo of University of Sto. Tomas.
Scoring guard Aljun Melecio is expected to do much in the scoring department for La Salle.
Coaching consultant Jermaine Byrd will be around to help coach Gian Nazario in calling the shots for the squad this year.