ART dela Cruz is just treasuring the opportunity coach Tim Cone gave him as he earned his spot in Ginebra's starting lineups in its first two games this 2019 PBA Commissioner's Cup.
"Sobrang thankful ko lang kasi coming from injury, starter ako at binibigay niya yung playing time," he said on the heels of the Gin Kings' 110-95 win over Meralco on Sunday.
Dela Cruz has admirably fulfilled his role as a point forward, averaging 12.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 3.0 assists through two outings, and even lit up for 16 points, two boards, and two assists in the win over the Bolts.
But his standout play shouldn't really come as a surprise as dela Cruz has been in this position before when he was San Beda's do-it-all utility guy in his final year in the NCAA.
That's why Cone didn't bat an eye when he placed the fourth-year forward in this position, confident that the second-generation stud will be able to do the role Joe Devance usually does for the team.
"Yun ang sinasabi sa akin ni coach Tim, na hindi niya ako ilalagay sa spot na ito kung hindi ko kayang gampanan yung role," said dela Cruz.
"Nakikita ko na rin yung sarili ko na parang si kuya Joe na nagtitimon at nagpapakita ng leadership. Kahit bata pa ako, sinasabi sa akin ni coach na kailangan ko mag-step up para sa mga kasabay ko sa loob at magtiwala lang sa binigay sa akin na responsibility."
Dela Cruz, however, knows that there's still a lot that he needs to learn as he constantly seeks advice from Devance as he settles in this newfound niche.
"Everytime sa practice, sinusunod ko lang yung payo niya. Sa akin naman, alam kong hindi pa sapat yun kaya kailangan ko pa ng more experience," he said.
"Madami pang dadaan na games and thankful lang ako na nakakuha kami ng panalo ngayon. Sana first five all the time, pero di talaga ganoon. Kung bibigyan ako ng playing time, ok na ako at masaya na ako doon."