He’s found success in Puerto Rico, Mexico and in the Asean Basketball League, but the allure of winning in a place where he was banned five years ago proved to be enough determination for Renaldo Balkman to embark on this redemption tour.
Thankfully, the maligned yet repentant forward is not alone in this mission.
Winning a title will always be San Miguel’s top priority, but having Balkman redeem himself in the PBA is another task that’s on top of team’s to-do list this conference.
In a series of text messages to FOX Sports PH, SMB team manager Gee Abanilla emphasized that it’s a concerted effort to help the Puerto Rican import begin anew in this year’s Commissioner’s Cup by helping him acclimate to the team’s system.
“The first practice we had this morning went well and it seems that everybody from our team is focused on giving this man a second chance to rectify, make amends and put some closure to his unfinished business,” he wrote.
Even coach Leo Austria spoke highly of Balkman’s determination to finally seal the deal this time.
“Gusto niyang matapos yung unfinished business niya. ‘Nung nawala siya sa Petron, I think 7-1 standing nila noon,” Austria explained.
But getting him integrated into the team’s pace of play isn’t the only hurdle that’s bothering the Beermen today.
In fact, pundits and critics, which included Alaska owner Wilfred Uytengsu, expressed their reservations about the lifting of the ban and are wary of Balkman’s history.
San Miguel doesn’t care, though.
“There will always be opinions by others outside our team but at the end of the day, we just have to take care of our own business and understand & accept that he is now part of our family,” Abanilla said.
Camaraderie, of course, won’t work if Balkman doesn’t put in the work himself – and the 33-year-old certainly isn’t lacking in that aspect.
“Renaldo’s a warrior,” Austria lauded.
“I think Renaldo’s tenacity, experience and passion to win, as witnessed in the ABL, would be something that we would be expecting from him. The intangibles that he can provide as well as his defensive prowess will surely help us if we can harness it correctly,” Abanilla further commented.