LA Salle coach Derrick Pumaren must have slept with mixed emotions last Wednesday night.
As the deadline for the submission of papers for the PBA draft lapsed, Green Archers star center Justine Baltazar chose to play his final year, while skipper Aljun Melecio opted to join the proceedings set on March 14.
Pumaren admitted he yearned to still have Melecio next season, but said he understood the decision of his ace playmaker.
“I fully support whatever decision they made. I would love to see Aljun (Melecio) play but I understand his situation,” Pumaren told Malaya-Business Insight yesterday.
“Our top concern and priority are always the welfare of our players,” he added.
The UAAP called off its 83rd season last December due to the health perils and uncertainties due to the pandemic and intends to launch its 84th season in September if and when the government allows it.
The cancellation of the 83rd season marked the first time the UAAP scrapped a season since World War II from 1941 to 1946.
Pumaren is now looking forward to seeing Melecio prove his worth in the pros and having Baltazar lead the charge for the Taft-based five.
“I wish Aljun the best of luck in the coming PBA draft and I can’t wait to see him play and showcase what he can do,” he said.
“With Justine, we will have a veteran big man who can lead, teach and guide our young team.”
The reed-thin Baltazar, who is at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna as part of the Gilas Pilipinas training pool, averaged 15.1 points and a team-best 11.8 rebounds, while the 5-foot-7 Melecio was good for 10.4 markers, 3.2 boards, and 3.8 assists in the last UAAP cage wars.