Baltazar a prized Draft find–and he knows he can bring to Converge what the team admits it lacks

Justine Baltazar PBA Rookie Draft

Justine Baltazar during the PBA Rookie Draft combine.–MARLO CUETO/

Justine Baltazar acknowledged that his presence would be a huge lift for Converge if it decides to select him No. 1 overall in the PBA Rookie Draft.

“If I am lucky enough to be selected by Converge (first overall), I think I can be of a big help (to the team) because they need a (reliable) big man,” Baltazar said in Filipino on Wednesday after taking part in the first day of the league’s Draft Combine at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.

Baltazar’s appearance in the mandatory activity for applicants assured the entry of one of the sought-after players who have yet to make the jump to the country’s big league, with the FiberXers seen as his sure destination.

But coach Aldin Ayo remained coy on Converge’s plans for Sunday’s proceedings at Glorietta in Makati City, especially with the likes of Sedrick Barefield, RJ Abarrientos, Kai Ballungay, Dave Ildefonso and Caelan Tiongson also among the 70 applicants.

Players in mind

Without naming names, Ayo said that the FiberXers already have some players in mind.

“We have three to four players that we’re contemplating on choosing,” Ayo said.

Ayo, however, seemed to have been caught in a dead giveaway on the player they’re hoping would help turn the fortunes of a Converge squad that won just three out of 22 games last season which led to the FiberXers’ Draft status.

“We’re probably going for a player who is versatile enough to fill our needs, especially on defense,” he said. “We’re really lacking in terms of ceiling. At the same time, we’re also lacking firepower on offense. Whoever that is, it would be up to management and the coaching staff to decide.”

The 6-foot-9 Baltazar is finally entering the Draft after opting to pull out at the last minute in 2022 and then skipping last year’s edition.

He spent the past two seasons briefly in Japan before becoming a dominant star for Pampanga in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL), leading the Giant Lanterns to the title in 2023.

“Playing in the MPBL is really a big help because it made me gain more confidence and ease my transition to the PBA,” he said.

Whoever selects Baltazar may have to wait longer, as the La Salle product could commit to finishing the remainder of his current stint in the regional league.

But once he steps on the PBA hardcourt, Baltazar is looking forward to facing some of the league’s best.

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“I’m looking forward to facing my idols like June Mar Fajardo, Raymond Almazan, and fellow Kapampangans like Ian Sangalang and Japeth Aguilar,” Baltazar said.