Carl Bryan Cruz shows he's not in Fiba Asia Cup to merely fill up the numbers for Gilas
Carl Bryan Cruz is turning out to be a surprise package for Gilas. Photo from Fiba.com

CARL Bryan Cruz has shown that he's not in Lebanon to merely fill up the numbers for an undermanned Gilas Pilipinas side.

Pulled out of the bench with big men Christian Standhardinger and Japeth Aguilar in foul trouble, the Alaska rookie ended up playing a major role in the Philippines' 84-68 win over Iraq in the 2017 Fiba Asia Cup in Lebanon.

The rugged 6-4 forward out of Far Eastern University led Gilas in scoring with eight points to keep the team's head above water in a sluggish first half that ended with Iraq trailing by just a point, 31-32.

His heads-up play, as well as a maturity well beyond his age, had Cruz playing for 24 minutes and 56 seconds - the most by any player in the team.

[See Gilas rips Iraq to stake claim on top group seed in Fiba Asia Cup]

He also made the most of those minutes, scoring 11 points to go with two rebounds and three assists.

To cap a breakout performance, the Gilas cadet, pulled out of the Southeast Asian Games team to do double duty after the injury to June Mar Fajardo, had the last laugh in a rematch with Iraq bruiser Mohammed Al-Khafaji.

The two had a couple of highly physical confrontations the last time the two sides met in the Jones Cup in Taipei, in a match Gilas won, 84-75, last JUly 19.

The rematch pretty had the same result.

The bruiser Al-Khafaji started at center for Iraq but finished with only eight points and three rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter after - you guessed it - an extra motion in a bruising rebound battle with Cruz.

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