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Balti Baltazar backs out of PBA Draft

It's official: no Balti Baltazar in the PBA Draft this year. UAAP Season 84 Media Team (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANDALUYONG—Balti Baltazar has recalled his initial decision to join the PBA Draft.

Commissioner Willie Marcial confirmed on Thursday that the six-foot-seven forward withdrew from Sunday's event as he is set to take his talents elsewhere at least for a year.

According to the executive, Baltazar sent a letter that he received earlier in the day formalizing his decision to pull himself out of the draft.

"May letter na binigay sa akin kanina na finormal niya na niwi-withdraw niya ang pag-a-apply niya para sa draft this year," Marcial said following the end of the PBA Draft Combine at the Gatorade Hoops Center here.

Attending the combine is a necessary process for the draft applicants if they want to continue their intent to join the draft.

Baltazar missed the final day of the combine just like during Day 1 on Wednesday, although Marcial said that he was excused for both days just like those who are absent due to their college basketball finals commitments.

Marcial, however, revealed that Baltazar's valid excuse is an offer to play in the B.League.

"Kausap ko [si Balti]. Sabi niya, 'Comm, pwede bang one year muna ako sa Japan tapos balik kami?' Sabi ko, 'OK lang,'" Marcial added, although he did not reveal which team Baltazar will play for.

Initially, both Marcial and Baltazar agreed that the latter can still be drafted to the PBA on Sunday but will still spend the 2022-23 season in the B.League and will just join his PBA mother team come the following season.

But with the B.League season still ongoing by the time the PBA season ends by May 10, 2023 at the latest, both Marcial and Baltazar arrived at a decision for the latter to just defer his draft application to next year.

"Para 'di maipit yung bata at yung team na kukuha sa kanya, nagkausap kami na mag-Japan muna siya tapos saka siya bumalik pag OK na," Marcial further said.

Baltazar is among those tipped to be selected early into the draft. Marcial himself projected him as a Top 5 pick.

With Baltazar now scratched off the list, the number of draft applicants this year is now down to 74, although it is expected to be trimmed further by Friday as the PBA releases the final list of draft aspirants.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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