LA SALLE stalwart Justine Baltazar — THE UAAP

By John Bryan Ulanday

FROM Taft to Japan.

La Salle stalwart Justine Baltazar is officially off to the “Land of Rising Sun,” striking a deal to suit up for the Hiroshima Dragonflies in the Japan B.League as announced by the team on Thursday.

“It is a great honor to be a member of the team. I would like to do my best to contribute to the club,” said the 6-foot-7 forward in a statement, praising Hiroshima for the warm welcome to him and his family.

Mr. Baltazar is coming off a Mythical Team citation in the UAAP Season 84 on averages of 12.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.0 steal and 1.0 block as La Salle finished in the Final Four.

The Pampanga native had actually thrown his hat to the 2022 PBA Rookie Draft last week after La Salle’s University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) campaign but pulled out at the last minute.

He was projected as among the top selections in the local league draft led by eventual No. 1 pick Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser of Blackwater.

In Japan this time, Hiroshima is banking on his versatility including finesse paint operation and sweet perimeter shooting aside from his ceiling as a lengthy forward.

The Dragonflies missed the playoffs with a 29-28 record at 12th place of the 22-team B.League.

Mr. Baltazar, 25, joined a growing list of Filipino imports in Japan after Thirdy Ravena (San-en NeoPhoenix), Kiefer Ravena (Shiga Lakestars), Ray Parks, Jr. (Nagoya Diamond Dolphins), Dwight Ramos (Levanga Hokkaido) and Kobe Paras (Niigata Albirex BB).