IT’S a privilege that seldom comes in a player’s career, much more for a rookie.
That’s why instead of grumbling, Carl Bryan Cruz felt honored to don the Gilas Pilipinas colors, not just in one but two major international tournaments that take place one after the other later this month.
Never mind that the job could take its toll on him, especially physically. Cruz said he’ll always cherish such opportunity that comes very rarely in a lifetime.
“Mahirap pero yung ganitong opportunity bibihirang dumating. Kaya para sa akin, di ko ito papalagpasin lalo at para sa bayan ito,” said the rookie big man of Alaska.
Along with Fil-German Christian Standhardinger, Cruz is one of only two Gilas players commissioned to play for both the national teams competing in the Fiba Asia Cup in Beirut, Lebanon and the 29th Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The two meets will overlap: the Fiba Asia Cup will hold its crucial stages on August 19 and 20 just as the SEA Games holds the first two games of its basketball competitions.
In the event Gilas makes it to either the semis or finals of the Beirut showcase, Cruz and Standhardinger will head straight to Malaysia from Lebanon without the benefit of a rest.
“If ever umabot sa finals ng Fiba Asia, after ng game, diretso na kami agad sa Malaysia,” said Cruz, noting Gilas will play its first game against Thailand in the SEA Games on August 19.
Truth to tell, the Gilas cadet hasn’t rested yet since coming back from Chinese Taipei for the 39th Jones Cup, where he played all of the team’s scheduled nine games in nine days.
Upon returning, he immediately joined mother ballclub Alaska in practice the following day.
“So wala pa talaga akong pahinga,” he disclosed. “Pero mga ganitong bagay naman, dito nailalabas yung pagiging professional mo. Kung paano mo aalagaan yung sarili mo.”
Good thing, Alaska management and coaching staff opted not to utilize him in the ongoing PBA Governors Cup not until he is through with his duty with the national team.
While Cruz appreciates the gesture, there is also a tinge of guilt on his part, especially with the Aces on the midst of a woeful 11-game losing streak, including three in the mid-season tournament.
“Gusto ko talagang maglaro at tulungan yung team lalo at nag-struggle kami,” said the former Far Eastern University stalwart. “Pero naintindihan ko rin naman yung part ni coach Alex (Compton) na hindi na niya ako in-activate. For my own good naman ito.”
Like a father to his child, Compton also has a piece of advice to Cruz while being a part of the national training pool.
“Lagi niyang pinapa-alala sa akin mag-enjoy ako dahil once in a lifetime lang ito,” said the Alaska freshman. "Gusto niya lang akong mag-focus sa Gilas para 100 percent ako.”
That’s exactly what Carl Bryan Cruz intends to do now.