BOCAUE — Carl Bryan Cruz’s dream is finally a reality.
Tirelessly devoting his time to the national team has paid off for the Alaska forward as he gets a chance to represent Gilas Pilipinas at home when it takes on Australia on Monday.
“Tuwang tuwa ako kasi first time ko lang makalaro sa Manila. Kasi lahat ng nilaruan ko, puro out of the country. So ngayon, sobrang excited ako makaharap yung mga kapwa Pilipino natin,” said the 26-year-old cager, who took Allein Maliksi's place in the lineup.
Most of Cruz’s past national team stints were overseas, with the most high-profile being the 2017 Fiba Asia Cup in Lebanon where the country finished seventh.
He’s had a chance to play in the 2019 Fiba World Cup Asian qualifiers before, having suited up in Melbourne in the country’s 84-68 defeat to Australia last February where he went scoreless in six minutes.
That past experience, in Cruz’s mind, is what will make the difference for him as the Filipinos aim for the upset against the Boomers.
“This time, may advantage na ako. Alam ko na yung flow, alam ko na yung laro ng Australia. Kumbaga, may advantage akong konti,” he said.
As different as the country’s 12 men are for the tiff, Australia has also bolstered its roster with NBA players in Matthew Dellavedova and Thon Maker, both of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Cruz acknowledges the tall task ahead of them, saying, “Dagdag reinforcement sa kanila.”
“Pero kami, despite the lack of preparation, alam naman namin sa sarili namin na confident kami na kaya namin at makakapag-execute kami ng maayos sa court bukas.”
What will work in Gilas’ favor is the expected record crowd attendance trooping to the Philippine Arena here on Monday as Cruz sees the world’s largest indoor arena being packed to the rafters.
“Sana suportahan niyo kami bukas dahil kailangan namin ng suporta ninyo,” he pleaded.