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Balkman remorseful, asks forgiveness

Renaldo Balkman (right) and personal chef Tim Brooks

MANILA, Philippines - Petron import Renaldo Balkman went from hero to heel in throwing a tantrum late in the Blaze Boosters’ 83-73 loss to Alaska in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last Friday but appealed for a chance to redeem himself in a public apology expressing remorse and regret after the blow-up.

Balkman was the league’s leading scorer with a 28.2 clip before facing Alaska but could only deliver six points against the Aces. The win brought Alaska back to the top of the standings with a 6-1 record while Petron slipped to third at 5-2.

“I really regret having lost my cool,” said Balkman who played for Denver and New York in a six-year NBA career. “I realize that my action was very wrong and unacceptable. I wish to express my apology to my team and management, the basketball fans and the PBA. I am sincerely sorry.”

Balkman snapped when he was restrained by assistant coach Biboy Ravanes and teammates Ronald Tubid and Arwind Santos from confronting the three referees.  He pushed everyone away and even put his hands around Santos’ neck. Balkman later sought out Santos and his family, asking forgiveness from his teammate, wife and mother. He apologized for his behavior in the Petron dugout. Balkman will appear as a guest on the AKTV Center during the PBA coverage tonight. He has been summoned to a meeting with PBA Commissioner Chito Salud tomorrow.

Balkman’s friend Tim Brooks, whom he brought over from Florida to prepare his meals here, entered the court to pacify the import at the height of his eruption. “No excuses,” said Brooks. “Rey was frustrated with himself, he couldn’t sleep the night before and only had two hours of rest. He had no rhythm, very little movement. It’s not easy if you’re 6-6 being defended by a 6-9 guy (Robert Dozier). He felt he let his team and fans down. But he’ll be back. He’s here for a reason – to win a championship for Petron.”

Balkman, 28, is playing for the first time as an import in an overseas league. “I heard about the Philippines from guys who’ve played here like Will McDonald, Tiras Wade and Terrence Leather,” said Balkman. “They all had good things to say about the Philippines and Filipinos. They warned me about the physicality but that’s part of the game. I love the Philippines. I never imagined it would be this beautiful. Filipinos are wonderful people. My dad (Michael) is coming over for a visit at the end of the month. He’s a long-haul truck driver. I think once he comes, he won’t want to leave because it’s so beautiful here. The traffic is a pain but it’s like that all over the world. What makes a big difference is the warmth of the people and I love the Filipinos. I also love Filipino-made shoes. I had 50 pairs made because I’m a big high-top collector.”

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Balkman said he’s lost count of the tattoos all over his body but there’s a special one on his left thigh made here. “I had it done by Ronald’s tattoo artist Ryan,” he said. “It’s my favorite. The Philippines will always be with me wherever I go now. That’s how much I love the Philippines.” The tattoo covers the entire thigh, under the heading “Character” are 11 attributes – responsibility, accountability, determination, dedication, perseverance, confidence, fearlessness, respect, integrity, honor, selflessness. Then at the bottom are the words “Iron Sharpens Iron.” The tattoos on his body include a Biblical passage from Philippians 4:13, “Live for troubles” on his right under upper arm and “Die for happiness” on his left, “Hustle” on his right eyelid and lower back leg, “Harder” on his left eyelid and lower back leg, “Can’t Stop” on his right armpit, “Won’t Stop” on his right armpit, T. B. 813 for the area code in his hometown Tampa Bay, Florida and the saying “Liked by few, Hated by many, Respected by all.”

Balkman said he’s a simple-living man. “I love my two kids, a girl and a boy, in South Carolina,” he said. “I’m laid back, I walk slow, I’m a quiet guy. I don’t go out at night. I do video games in my room. My motto is I learn before I teach. I sit back, watch things happen and learn from what I see. On the court, I’m a different person. I play a game like it’s my last, I want to go out with a bang. I run like a deer but my favorite animal is the lion because of its heart.”

Although his dream is to return to the NBA, Balkman said his priority at the moment is winning a title for Petron. “I was a role player in the NBA but now, I’m a leader with Petron,” he said. “It’s a great feeling. Coach Olsen (Racela) has given me the green light to do what I need to do. At the start, it was just about my defense and leadership. Now, I’m making things happen in offense, too. There are 13 guys on my team depending on me and I’ve got to live up to their trust.”

Balkman, the second of three children and only boy, said his first sport was soccer. “My dad played for a community college and was a power forward who could jump right out of the gym,” he said. “He taught me how to play with heart.” Balkman has played for Puerto Rico at the FIBA World Championships and one of his dreams is to suit up for the national team in the Olympics.

“Right now, it’s about making the best of where you are,” said Balkman. “I’m in contact with my NBA buddies like Melo Anthony, J. R. Smith and K-Mart (Kenyon Martin). They know where I’m at and they want me to succeed in the PBA. If I go back to the NBA, then that’s cool. If not, that’s cool, too. I’ve already got a great story to tell in six years in the NBA.”

What makes Balkman different from other imports is his sense of family. Once, he treated his teammates to a steak dinner cooked by Brooks at Dorian Pena’s home. “I love my teammates,” he said. “I’m sorry for what happened in the Alaska game. I messed up. I’m appealing for another chance. I know we can win the championship if we stay together. When it’s game time, it’s time for business, time to win, that’s my job.”

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