Balti Baltazar likely to honor contract with Pampanga 1st before joining PBA

There is a chance that projected top pick Balti Baltazar might finish first his PBA stint before finally making his way to the PBA. PBA Images
By Ivan Saldajeno

PASIG--Don't be surprised if Balti Baltazar will not immediately join the PBA at the start of its new season in August.

The six-foot-seven power forward, the projected number-one pick of the upcoming rookie draft, is considering finishing his commitment first with the Pampanga Giant Lanterns in the MPBL before making the jump to the PBA.

"Tignan ko kung tatapusin ko yung MPBL o maglalaro na ako sa PBA," Baltazar said during Day 1 of the PBA Draft Combine on Wednesday at the Ynares Sports Arena.

"Hinihintay ko rin desisyon ni Gob (Pampanga governor and Giant Lanterns head coach Delta Pineda) kasi ang sinabi niya sa akin talaga na tatapusin ko talaga ang MPBL kasi may kontrata ako."

The reigning MPBL MVP remains a key player for Pampanga this year, especially during the team's ongoing 16-game winning streak.

Baltazar was fresh from a triple-double performance in their 76-60 road win at Batang Kankaloo just the night before.

He finished with 12 points, 20 rebounds, and 10 assists for his fourth trip-dub this season alone.

As things stand, the Giant Lanterns are on track to make the MPBL playoffs tentatively scheduled to start in late September or early October, which could mean he might miss at least the early stages of the PBA Governors' Cup.

An MPBL star deferring his PBA debut a bit is not new as some top rookies from last season also had to finish their commitments with the regional league before officially suiting up in Asia's premier play-for-pay league.

Examples include former Bacoor City stars Jhan Nermal and James Kwekuteye, who still carried their impressive MPBL campaign to NLEX and Blackwater, respectively.

The best story, though, came from former San Juan Knight Adrian Nocum, who quickly became an impact player for Rain Or Shine and eventually soared to third place in the Rookie of the Year race in terms of statistical points.

Converge holds the first overall pick of Sunday's draft proceedings, and Baltazar is aware that the team is considering him to shore up their big-man rotation.

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