Brain surgery didn't stop Balanza in becoming a champion
The experience of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel rookie Jerrick Balanza during his days with the Letran Knights was one of the ‘feel good’ stories that chronicled his return from brain surgery to being a champion in his final year with the Intramuros-based school.
That roller-coaster ride is what keeps Balanza patient in these trying times.
“Actually mas matagal pa yung ngayon kesa nung natigil ako sa paglalaro before, kasi noon four months lang then nakabalik na ako sa paglalaro for Letran,” Balanza told Manila Bulletin Friday.
“So in a way, malaking tulong yung naging experience ko noon sa kung anong nangyayari sa atin ngayon na tigil sa ensayo, tigil sa laro. Tiis muna tayo for now."
It was September 7, 2018 – or a day after his birthday – when Balanza underwent surgery to remove a tumor in his brain, forcing him to miss the remainder of the season.
The following year, the sweet-shooting forward came back stronger as he led Letran’s title campaign with a victory against arch-nemesis San Beda in a thrilling three-game showdown.
Balanza’s efforts – especially his character and discipline – didn’t go unnoticed particularly for Ginebra coach Tim Cone, who took him in the second round as the 13th overall pick in the 2019 PBA Rookie Draft.
Prior to the community quarantine due to the coronavirus outbreak last March, Balanza had been practicing well with Ginebra and earned positive feedback from teammates LA Tenorio and Mark Caguioa.
Balanza signed a one-year deal with the Kings and was ready to play when the league opened its 45th season with the Philippine Cup. But COVID-19 intervened.
The 6-foot-1 Balanza said he is prepared once the PBA resumes practice sessions.
“Ako naman positive pa din naman ako maski na ganito yung nangyari. Ang ginagawa ko lang ready lang ako palagi para anytime na sabihin na balik na kami maski na ensayo lang muna, ready ako,” said Balanza.
“So waiting lang talaga, yun nga patience. Kaya ako tuloy lang ako sa personal training, kung ano yung meron ako dito sa bahay yun ang gamit ko maski nga sako ng bigas nagbubuhat ako.
“ Sa team naman mostly meeting and lecture kami with coach Tim pag online. Although yung excitement andun na din na makabalik na, kala nga natin balik na until nagkaroon uli ng lockdown e."
Balanza said that his time with family also keeps him busy.
The 24-year-old Balanza said he has more time playing with his kids, six-year-old Alexandra and three-year-old Amara, and helps in his wife Kelly’s online business of selling curtains.
“May bumibili naman. Kaya kapag wala akong ginagawa sinasamahan ko siya sa meet-up. Siyempre yung time din sa mga bata, ngayon lang din kasi nagkaroon ng mahabang time with them,” Balanza said.
“Nung college hindi din naman kasi ensayo sa Letran, then nung nag-PBA na ako may mga twice-a-day na ensayo kami sa Ginebra. Itong nagka-lockdown talagang spend time kami sa bahay."