Despite going against his former team, the Converge FiberXers’ Jerrick Balanza is happy that his new squad came up on top against the NorthPort Batang Pier.
Balanza was traded by NorthPort before the start of the conference for Allyn Bulanadi, who eventually headed to San Miguel. His Converge team last Sunday overwhelmed NorthPort, 122-92, to open their 2023 PBA Governors’ Cup campaign.
“Masaya lang po ako ngayon kasi nung na-trade ako tapos nalaman ko sila kalaban namin, wala naman akong inisip na iba against sa kanila, nothing personal. Naging professional lang ‘yung attitude kasi dati pa naman, kung san ako mapunta, doon talaga ako maglalaro, ganun lang ‘yun,” said Balanza.
(“I’m happy. When I was traded and I found out we would be playing them, I didn’t think any different, nothing personal. I stayed professional with my attitude because, ever since, whichever team I go, that’s where I would play my best, that’s all.”)
In the win, the FiberXer tallied 13 points, including three triples, and four assists, which earned him some praise from Converge head coach Aldin Ayo.
“He is a good addition for us because he can score [and] at the same time, hindi siya liability sa depensa. He plays defense also. ‘Yun ang mga hinahanap namin, two-way players,” said Ayo.
(“He is a good addition for us because he can score [and] at the same time, he’s not a liability on defense. He plays defense also. That’s what we’re looking for, two-way players.”)
Ayo and Balanza go way back as the latter played under the former in 2015 during their respective stints in Colegio de San Juan de Letran.
Even back then, Ayo was already preaching a two-way approach to the young player.
“Dati pa niya sinasabi sakin ‘yan (being a two-way player), tuwing nagkikita kami. Siguro sabi ko nga sa mga nagsasabi sakin na ‘Favorite ka ba niyan dati?’ Hindi, kasi one year lang kami nagsama ni Coach Aldin, that year, rookie ako, 18 years old lang ako. Di rin naman ako nakakalaro,” said Balanza.
“Siguro nakita niya ‘yung mga unang laro ko sa PBA bago siya pumasok na nakita niyang papasok ako sa sistema niya kaya gusto niya ako makuha siguro.”
(“He has been telling me that for a long time, every time we saw each other. Some people ask me, ‘Were you his favorite back then?’ and I just tell them, no, because I was only able to play for Coach Aldin for one year. That year, I was a rookie, 18 years old. I wasn’t able to play that much… I guess he was able to see some of my previous games in the PBA before he came in, so he saw how I could fit in his system, that’s probably why he wanted to get me.”)
Balanza admitted it was difficult at first to adjust to Ayo’s system but thankfully, he has his teammates and assistant coaches to help him, some of whom were also his teammates back in Letran.
“Noong una sobrang hirap sakin kasi ang hirap ng adjustment, two weeks pa lang ako sa kanila eh, pero buti yung teammates and assistant coaches, mababait sila. ‘Di ako tumitigil din eh, talagang makulit din ako sa practice. Marami akong tanong. Kasi alam ko si Coach Aldin, sobrang dami and detalyado system niya eh. Until now naga-adjust pa rin ako.”
(“At first, it was very difficult for me because the adjustment was hard, I’ve only been with them two weeks, but it was good because my teammates and assistant coaches have been helpful. I don’t stop, I’m persistent in practice, and I have a lot of questions. Because I know Coach Aldin, his system is very detailed. Until now, I’m still adjusting.”)
The FiberXers will be back in action on Thursday when they play the Terrafirma Dyip.
—JMB, GMA Integrated News
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