by Ernest Hernandez
A week after turning 35, Renaldo Balkman added another career milestone by leading Mighty Sports – Go For Gold Philippines to take home the William Jones Cup. He was also proclaimed as the league MVP averaging 19 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.1 steals in seven games.
In his mid-30’s, Balkman’s age has become a huge question mark if he can still maintain his style of play. The 6-foot-8 forward credits his dedication to watch his conditioning to accomplish the feat at his age.
“I worked hard to be a champion. I worked hard to keep my body healthy and to come out to perform the way I was supposed to perform and play the right way,” said Balkman.
“I took out a couple of months but I got to take care of my body and one thing about it is, as you get older, the more you have to take care of your body and playing basketball,” he adds.
Aside from skills and conditioning, Balkman took motivation from the passing of his agent, Sheryl Reyes, just this May.
“Hey, we won a championship—it has been a blessing and ever since I’ve been here since day 1, I’ve told you, this championship is not just for me but for Sheryl,” Balkman said.
The former New York Knick revealed that it was Reyes’ last wishes is for him to take home the Jones Cup.
“She pushed me to play in this Jones Cup,” told Balkman. “It has been a blessing for me to play here and I won it. I told her before everything happened, when I spoke to her, she was basically saying, ‘Go out there and win it’.”
Balkman would then recall how Reyes’ pushed her limits to bring him back in the Philippines after getting banned in 2013 after choking Petron teammate, Arwind Santos, which he much regrets.
“It is really emotional when you come down to it when you come down to it, she definitely got me here, got me back playing in the Philippines. When I heard, no telling where I will be at, just giving me a second chance and believing in me,” recalls Balkman on Reyes’ efforts.
“She made sure that everybody in the world knows, I’m a great guy, that means so much to me,” he adds.
Even after the reinstatement in the PBA and winning championships in the ABL with Alab Pilipinas, Balkman still had doubters. Still, Reyes would convince teams that it will be worth it to get him for their team.
“Coming into the Jones Cup they don’t want to go and get me,” Balkman bared.
“A lot of people are saying negative things about me that I’m not approachable, I can’t play in a certain environment, I can’t do this and I can’t do that – all I can say to everybody, everyone goes through trials and tribulations, there are certain things you go through and overcome and one thing about me is I overcame the situations I’ve been through a couple of years ago and now I’m here, it was a blessing.”
Making the same mistake in the past is something Balkman had promised to himself and Reyes. In return, the former SMB import delivered with championships and MVPs.
“That was Sheryl fighting for me before. She got me here again and since I have been here for the past two, three years, I’ve won two championships,” said Balkman. “It’s all good. It’s all positive. I can say, rest in peace, Sheryl. She’s in my heart. This is for her.”
Throughout the years, Reyes had delivered to the Philippines a lot of memorable imports from Henry Walker, Rob Dozier to Justin Brownlee just to name a few. With her leaving a family behind in her passing, Balkman promised to look after them.
“She helped me out the fullest to get back and whatever I do, I’m quoting this now, whatever I do in the Philippines from here on now, it is for her and her family,” Balkman promised.
“It is not about for money anymore. It is for her and her family. When she was here, she looked out for me. Now, she’s gone, rest in peace, I’m looking out for her family.”