THERE’S one player just waiting in the wings if and when he’s called to play for flag and country.
TNT KaTropa shooting guard Jericho Cruz has made himself available for Gilas Pilipinas duty even as a practice player should national coach Chot Reyes need his services.
“Ako I’m just waiting for anything. If they will call me up, I’m just here,” said the TnT Katropa new boy. “Kahit practive player lang. Para sa bayan naman yun, e.”
Cruz’s voluntary act couldn’t have come at a better time.
With the national team beginning to prepare for the third window of the FIBA World Cup qualifying tournament set on June 29, only nine players from the 16-man pool showed up at the start of training this week at the Meralco gym to the obvious dismay of Reyes.
The national mentor wondered whether the players are still committed to suiting up for Gilas, with half of the team not around for the first day of practice.
“The most important thing is commitment,” said Reyes afterwards. “I need to figure out, and maybe, get the entire team together and figure out if they are still committed to June 29.
Given the chance, Cruz said he’ll show up in Gilas practices on short notice.
“If ever coach Chot invites me, I will always be there and be available,” said the former Adamson guard, who was acquired by the Katropa in a trade with Rain or Shine for rookie Sidney Onwubere and a 2018 first-round pick.
Other than his willingness to suit up for the national team, Cruz also got an absolute endorsement from Alaska coach Alex Compton, a former coaching staff member of Gilas.
“I would never preempt coach Chot or anything, but Jericho is a talented guard. He’s a guy who knows, someday may end up making the pool, because he’s going great with that system (dribble-drive),” said Compton.
“He’s such a good athlete and a great shooter.”
Cruz naturally, is grateful for the nice words from Compton.
“Siyempre, coming from a respected coach like coach Alex, one of the best in the game, nakakagulat din,” said the 27-year-old guard. “Na appreciate ko yung pagsasabi niya kasi nakikita niya that I am putting in the work.”
“It’s an honor and blessing na nasabi yan coming from other coaching staff.”
But Cruz knows there’s a lot of work still to be done, having been with the Katropa for just two conferences.
“Nag a-adjust pa rin naman ako, kasi kami nila Terrence (Romeo) bago pa kami sa team. Pero eventually, makukuha rin namin yung sistema at chemistry,” he added.