Korean pro hoops league slaps Justine Baltazar with 2-year ban

Justine Baltazar can’t enter the KBL free agency until 2025 (FIBA photo)

By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña

The Korean Basketball League (KBL) just let every aspiring Asian import know that you have to keep your word and follow the rules.

In an already shaky international hoops career for former De La Salle University (DLSU) superstar Justine Baltazar after a short-lived stint in the Japan B. League, the Filipino power forward just received another major blow when the KBL slapped him with a two-year suspension last February 9, 2023.

Baltazar was supposed to suit up for the Seoul Samsung Thunders this playing season when he agreed to the team’s terms and conditions regarding his contract.

To materialize the deal, the KBL and the Thunders asked Baltazar’s camp to acquire a Korean visa and even sent the necessary requirements in advance but the young star failed to do so and chose to stay with the PHL-based hoops squad Strong Group that competed during the 32nd Dubai International Basketball Championship.

Baltazar failed to meet the KBL’s deadline last February 1, 2023 and was still in Dubai at that time playing for head coach Charles Tiu and team owner Jacob Lao.

According to multiple sources, the Seoul Samsung team attempted to contact Baltazar but couldn’t reach him anymore, one of the deciding factors regarding his contract termination.

This is the second-straight time that Seoul Samsung wasn’t able to land a Filipino import in the KBL. Their first choice last year was Gilas Pilipinas young cadet William Navarro but contract disputes with the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) ended the deal.

Before suiting up for the Thunders, the KBL requested a Letter of Clearance (LOC) from the SBP but the hoops organization didn’t allow Navarro due to his contract still running up to March 2023.

Despite the situation, Navarro and the SBP quickly patched things up when the former ADMU Blue Eagles defender sent his sincere apologies.

“I now fully recognize that I have an existing contract with the SBP and am aware of its provision re the rights of my PBA Drafting Team through the PBA special draft, NorthPort Batang Pier,” Navarro posted.