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Gilas Pilipinas center June Mar Fajardo chats with former PBA teammate Renaldo Balkman outside their hotel in Vitoria, Spain. Balkman and the Puerto Rico national team arrive in Spain on Monday (Tuesday Manila time) and stay in the same hotel with Gilas. (video screenshot courtesy of Gilas staff)
MANILA, Philippines – Renaldo Balkman and his former Petron Blaze teammate June Mar Fajardo has crossed path once again shortly after the Puerto Rico national team arrived in Vitoria, Spain on Monday (Tuesday Manila time).
Balkman had a brief chat with Fajardo and Brgy. Ginebra playmaker LA Tenorio before checking in with his Puerto Rico teammates at Hotel Jardines de Uleta, the same residence where Gilas Pilipinas are billeted.
“How are you doing man, nice to see you,” Balkman told Fajardo in their chance encounter at the hotel’s entrance.
Fajardo and Tenorio were waiting for a cab to take them to the city proper for an errand when the Puerto Ricans arrived.
Balkman played as an import for the Petron Blaze Boosters, who reverted back to their original team name San Miguel Beermen, in last year’s PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
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The former New York Knicks forward was having a stellar PBA stint leading the Blaze Boosters to a 6-1 record until his meltdown which led to a choking incident against his former teammate Arwind Santos that cut short his Philippine basketball career.
Balkman was banned from the league and was also levied with a stiff Php250,000 fine. He has recovered since then picking up a championship in the Mexican League last June while also winning the Best Defensive Player and Best Import awards.
Balkman along with NBA veteran guards JJ Barrea and Carlos Arroyo led Puerto Rico a silver medal run in the FIBA Americas similar to Gilas Pilipinas’ achievement in the FIBA Asia qualifier last year. The 6-8 big man will be one of the big obstacles for Gilas Pilipinas in their bid to advance to the second round of the FIBA World Cup. Their much-awaited clash will happen on Sept. 3, which will be aired live on TV5 at 7 p.m.
Gilas Pilipinas and Puerto Rico are bracketed in Group B along with Argentina, Croatia, Senegal and Greece. The top four teams in each bracket will advance to the Round of 16 knockout games.