ANTIPOLO City – Only in his third game but Carl Bryan Cruz is already feeling at home with Blackwater.
Cruz played his best game yet as an Elite on Saturday when he fired 16 points in helping the team break through in the PBA Governors Cup by beating NorthPort, 107-98, at the Ynares Center.
The bruising forward poured 11 of his output in the second period when the Elite began to establish a separation between them and the Batang Pier, who played minus head coach Pido Jarencio.
The former Far Eastern University stalwart though, credited the entire team for making it easier for him to adapt to coach Aris Dimaunahan’s system.
“Nadala na rin nung sistema ng ball sharing namin tsaka naging consistent lang kami,” said Cruz, who added five rebounds.
And it wasn’t difficult for him to adjust to the Elite’s scheme of things after just coming on board at the start of the conference following a trade with Alaska for rookie big man Abu Tratter.
“Yung sistema ni coach Aris hindi naman mahirap, free-wheeling lang. Pag open ka, itira mo basta galing sa play. So madali naming makapag cope,” he added following the Petron Saturday special game.
It also factored that he once played for the franchise just before he applied in the 2016 special draft during a pocket tournament held in Malaysia. The Elite were still being coached by former PBA player Leo Isaac back then.
“So pagdating ko rito sa Blackwater, lahat sila kakilala ko na. So familiarity-wise, OK ako,” Cruz said. “Blackwater talagang sobrang talented na team and puro bata pa.”
Cruz was just one of five Elite to finish in double figures in the win that raised the team’s record to 1-2.
Rookie star Bobby Ray Parks shot 4-of-8 from three-point range for a team-high 21 points, Mike Digregorio and Roi Sumang had 14 each, while import Marqus Blakely again asserted his all-around game by contributing 13 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, and eight blocked shots.
Dimaunahan said things will only get better for Cruz as the tournament wears on.
“We know naman kung ano ang maibibigay ni Carl Bryan Cruz sa team. Yung depensa niya, yung hustle niya, and yung outside scoring niya. From time to time, makakapulut-pulot,” stressed the Blackwater mentor.
“Sobrang masaya kami sa acquisition namin with Carl. And as the tournament goes on, mas makukuha pa niya kung ano gusto naming mangyari and mas gaganda yung samahan namin sa isa’t isa.”