Aljun Melecio joining PBA draft while teammate Justine Baltazar returning for final season

Aljun Melecio (11) is turning pro while Justine Baltazar (19) will return to DLSU for his final UAAP season. UAAP

Aljun Melecio is leaving De La Salle University to apply for the upcoming PBA Rookie Draft.

The former UAAP Rookie of the Year made the announcement in an Instagram post on Wednesday just hours before the deadline for submission of requirements for the rookie proceedings set on Mar. 14.

"There are just some things in life that we can't control, and this was one of them. This was not the ending I expected for my time playing for the green and white. Being the team captain in my last playing year, I almost did not let go, but there are just some hard, but important decisions we must make," the 22-year-old guard wrote.

"This is a painful announcement, but it is one I have to make: I am entering the 2021 PBA Draft."

The 5-foot-9 guard was a pivotal offensive piece for the Green Archers in Season 82, averaging 10.7 points on 38.8 percent shooting, 3.7 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 0.9 steals in 25 minutes and 14 games.

Melecio bagged the UAAP Season 79 rookie plum the same year he helped the Green Archers win the men's basketball title.

His announcement comes after news that teammate Justine Baltazar will skip the draft and stay put for one more year in La Salle.

Green Archers head coach Derick Pumaren told ESPN5.com Wednesday that the 6-foot-7 center relayed his decision to team management Tuesday evening.

"Last night he communicated with me that he is still staying to finish his final year," he said in a text message.

Baltazar, touted as the best center in college today, will continue being the focal point for La Salle once action resumes in Season 84 later this year.

"With him around, we will have a veteran big man that can lead and teach my young team," Pumaren said.

The 23-year-old center averaged 15.1 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.0 blocks UAAP Season 82 to earn a spot in the league's Mythical Five.

Baltazar later saw action for the Gilas Pilipinas team that swept Thailand in the second window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers and tallied 7.0 points on 40 percent shooting, 8.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.0 steals and 0.5 blocks in 22.3 minutes per game.

At the moment, Baltazar is training with the rest of the Gilas core inside the bubble at Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna in hopes of snagging a roster spot for the third and final window next month.

Baltazar, also a member of the San Juan team that won the 2019 Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) Datu Cup, joins Javi Gomez de Liaño as the only cadets skipping the draft to play their final UAAP season.

Fellow pool teammates Calvin Oftana, Jaydee Tungcab and William Navarro had earlier sent in their applications to the PBA.