ART dela Cruz could not imagine himself as anything other than a basketball player. After all, he's good at what he does, being one of best players in the collegiate league today who’s poised for a promising future in the pro ranks.
But his parents saw a different path for their son before.
Unknown to many, the San Beda star forward would've become a priest had his dad gotten his way and, in fact, almost entered a seminary in high school.
“Plano namin pag-pariin siya,” his father and namesake admitted in a recent chat with Spin.ph.
It was a surprising revelation from the elder Dela Cruz, who, after nurturing a long, successful PBA career, would naturally be proud to see his son follow in his footsteps. Not so.
“Gusto namin magkaroon ng parang (malapit) sa Diyos sa pamilya,” added the elder Dela Cruz, a bruiser in his playing days. “May kapatid kasi ako nag-madre, pero hindi natuloy, lumabas, so sabi ko sa sarili ko, pag nagka-anak ako ng lalaki, pagpapariin ko naman.”
“Pero nung ipapasok na namin siya sa seminaryo, nahilig mag-basketball.”
The younger Dela Cruz also felt his parents were trying to teach him a lesson for his mischievous ways.
“Makulit kasi ako eh,” Art admitted. “Pero naisip ko kung anong pwedeng mangyari (sa seminaryo). May possibility na baka hindi ako makalabas o hindi ko matapos.”
“Nakakakaba lang kasi wala talaga akong iniisip na mag-seminaryo,” he added. “Parang na-trap ako.”
“Hanggang sa nagpakabait muna ako,” the San Miguel, Bulacan native added. “Sabi ko, 'Sige sundin ko na lang.'”
That was until former Red Cubs coach Ato Badolato gave him an opportunity to try out.
“Biglang kinausap kami ni coach Ato (Badolato) na subukan maglaro dito sa San Beda,” said Art, a late bloomer in the country’s favorite sport.
The rest was history, as they say, as Dela Cruz rose to become known for his versatility and all-around play that has thrust him into the MVP conversation while being at the forefront of the Red Lions’ title-retention bid in NCAA Season 91.
The 23-year-old cager may have turned his back on priesthood, but he still made it a point to provide help to the seminary in recent years.
“Pumupunta na lang kami sa seminary tapos nagbibigay sa mga bata ng pagkain.”
“And feeling ko naman kahit hindi ako nagtuloy sa pagiging pari, kasama ko naman si God all the way,” he added. “Hindi niya ako pinapabayaan, magkaroon ng major injury, at tuloy-tuloy pa rin yung blessings na binibigay niya.”
The elder Dela Cruz agreed.
“Yun siguro ang naging kapalit,” he said. “Hindi man siya naging pari, nakikita naman siya ng mga kabataan na pamarisan siya na maging player at umiwas sa mga bisyo na hindi maganda.”
While admitting he still wants him to pursue the calling of priesthood, Arturo is letting his son, Blackwater’s first pick and ninth overall in this year’s draft, to continue in his chosen path.
“Actually priority namin mag-pari siya, pero passion niya mag-basketball, talagang nag-eenjoy siya.”
The Barako Bull assistant coach, is of course, proud of his son.
“Let’s not dwell on the past,” he said. “Okay naman laro niya ngayon. At least nasa PBA na siya. Inabutan pa niya ako dito sa PBA. Thank God. Sobrang blessing. Sana humaba ang career niya.”
Arturo then rattled off what his 6-foot-3 son can improve on to survive in the pros.
“Kailangan lumakas ang katawan niya, masanay sa banggaan,” he said. “Ayaw na ayaw niya yung physical eh. Gusto niya yung natural basketball talent eh. Pero pagka-sinasaktan siya, napipikon siya. hindi siya sanay sa sakitan.”
“Kumpiyansa rin ng coach (ang kailangan),” he added. “Pag walang kumpiyansa ang coach sa kanya, hindi niya magagawa yun. magkakaroon siya ng doubt.”
“Sana maging MVP muna siya para maganda ang pagpasok sa PBA.”