Birthday boy Art dela Cruz can't wait to regain fitness, get another shot at Gilas spot
Art dela Cruz celebrates his 25th birthday with family in Bulacan.

IT’S a happy day for Art dela Cruz, but there’s surely a part of him that’s sad as he missed a chance to be a part of the Gilas Pilipinas pool that’s preparing for the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) Championship.

As he celebrated his 25th birthday on Tuesday with his family at their Bulacan home, the injured Blackwater forward and Gilas pool member admitted he would’ve loved to even just train with the national team had he not ruptured his Achilles tendon right on the first day of Gilas 5.0’s training camp last March.

“Kung healthy ako, kahit practice player,” Dela Cruz said in a chat with SPIN.ph. “Basta ipatawag ka, duty yung for the country and hindi lahat nabibigyan ng chance. Open naman until now yung communications namin sa group.”

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“Focus ko lang now is to come back stronger, kasi gusto ko na rin talaga bumalik and makatulong,” he added as his injury ruled him out of selection to the team as well as for the Elite in the entire Commissioner’s Cup.

At least Dela Cruz had some good news to share.

“Nakakalakad na (ako),” the versatile 6-foot-4 combo forward from San Beda said. “Start na rin ako mag-rehab. Sabi ng doctor, three to four months makaka-recover na.”

“I’ll try my best makahabol next conference para makatulong sa team ko. Masaya ako kasi ‘di ako iniwan ng Gilas at nag-cover ng lahat,” he added. “And thankful din ako sa Blackwater, supportive din sila boss Dioceldo (Sy) and coach Leo (Isaac). Birthday gift na nila sa’kin yun.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos