IT was just a matter of Carl Bryan Cruz making the most of the opportunity given him right in his PBA debut for Alaska.
With the Aces showing up Friday night minus three key players, the Gilas cadet produced a double-double of 20 points and 14 rebounds - numbers that went for naught in a 99-97 loss to NLEX in overtime in the Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Cruz played 26 minutes and shot 6 of 13 from the field in perhaps the most sterling performance put up by a freshman so far in the young season.
The former Far Eastern University stalwart had to play extended minutes and in an expanded role in the absence of injured Aces Calvin Abueva, Sonny Thoss, and Rome Dela Rosa.
Initially listed in the team’s injured-reserved list, Cruz was elevated to the active roster only on the eve of the match against the Road Warriors.
The member of the Gilas training pool said he was ready to play, but didn’t expect to get extended minutes from coach Alex Compton.
“Hindi ko expect talaga, pero kulang kami kaya suwerte na binigyan ako ng playing time ni coach,” he said after the game.
“Pero ready naman ako and everybody really need to step up for the team.”
Compton was very pleased with the way Cruz played, but is tempering expectations on the rookie big man.
“I don’t think it’s fair to expect a rookie to get 20 points and 14 rebounds,” said Compton, who nonetheless commended the rookie forward for the hard work he put in.
“That’s a tremendous game, tremendous effort. It was nice to see him get out there and get his shots,” added the Alaska mentor, who personally saw Cruz work out before selecting him during the special rookie draft involving members of the Gilas cadets.