WITH the UAAP eyeing to kick off its 83rd season only early next year due to the lingering health perils and uncertainties posed by the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, collegiate players eligible for one more year have the option to join the PBA draft in January.
Not for La Salle standouts Justine Baltazar and Aljun Melecio.
The two are expected to play their fifth and final year, according to Green Archers coach Derrick Pumaren.
“So far, they are committed,” Pumaren told Malaya-Business Insight, referring to the 6-foot-7 Baltazar and 5-foot-7 Melecio.
“The team will resume its online training tomorrow (yesterday). We took a break because it’s finals week,” he added.
The lanky Baltazar, a member of the Gilas Pilipinas national team training pool last February, averaged 15.1 points and a team-best 11.8 rebounds, while Melecio was good for 10.4 markers, 3.2 boards, and 3.8 assists in the last UAAP cage wars.
Pumaren also welcomed the commitment of La Salle Zobel center Raven Cortez to the Archers in the UAAP 84th season after he winds up his high school stint with the Junior Archers.
“He (Cortez) will be a big addition to our future frontline,” said Pumaren, who guided La Salle to its first two titles in 1989 and 1990.
“Most of my frontline players will be graduating when Raven becomes eligible.”
A former Gilas Youth player, the 6-foot-7 Cortez sat out the 82nd UAAP junior’s basketball tourney due to a knee injury.
Pumaren said he has his work cut out for him.
“We just have to plan and innovate to prepare the team and get them ready for Season 83,” said Pumaren.
Former University of Santo Tomas ace point guard and reigning Rookie of the Year Mark Nonoy and guard Deo Cuajao also left the Growling Tigers amid the Sorsogon bubble controversy and joined the Archers last Sept. 15.
Prized playmaker Evan Nelle transferred from San Beda University to the Taft-based five, although he will serve the required one-year residency before he can suit up like Nonoy and Cuajao.