ART Dela Cruz felt like a rookie all over again.
After an absence of more than a year, the young forward was finally back on the playing court on Sunday night as he made his Barangay Ginebra debut in a 112-93 win over TnT Katropa on the final day of the PBA Governors Cup eliminations at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Fully recovered from a tendon tear that sidelined him for 16 months, Dela Cruz played his first game with the Kings as part of coach Tim Cone’s starting unit against the Katropa, finishing with three points, four rebounds, and three assists in 13 minutes on the court.
Dela Cruz said he still has to get a full grasp of the system being run by the Kings, who acquired him in a trade last year from Blackwater in exchange for Chris Ellis.
“Nanibago ako, para akong naging rookie,” said the soft-spoken son of former PBA player and now Columbian Dyip consultant Art Dela Cruz. “Sa system para kasing walang consistent, kahit na anong posisyon puwedeng laruin.”
During the time that he was away from the court, the former San Beda star admitted frustrations set it, even to the point that he doubted if he can play again.
“Ang tagal, ang daming ups and downs,” he said.
That’s why he has so much to be thankful for, especially to Ginebra management and to Cone for having the patience to wait for him to become fully healthy.
Dela Cruz said he’s not under any pressure from the team to recover quickly from the injury he sustained prior to the league’s 43rd season.
“Walang team na makakapagtiyaga ng ganito katagal, kaya thankful ako sa Ginebra na hinintay ako,” he said.
And the only way he can repay the team’s trust is to get ready and play better come the playoffs and help Ginebra in its quest for a third straight PBA Governors Cup title.
“I think fit ako sa system ni coach,” he said. “Kaya sana maibalik ko yung tiwala ni coach.”