JERVY Cruz has yet to play his first game for Barangay Ginebra yet this early, coach Tim Cone is letting everyone know how enamored he is with the former UAAP MVP from University of Santo Tomas.
Cone was full of praise for the first major player acquired in a trade under his tenure at Ginebra, saying Cruz will be a big help as back-up big man to the Kings’ touted ‘Twin Towers’ of Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar.
“We think he can really help to be that extra big man that can rotate with Greg and Japeth, and keep them fresh,” said Cone shortly after Ginebra’s 89-64 massacre of Meralco in Tuesday’s Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup offering in Binan, Laguna.
The 6-foot-4 forward was dealt to the Kings on Monday after a brief stint with Barako Bull for sophomore big man Rodney Brondial and a 2018 second-round draft pick.
Although he joined the Kings during the out-of-town sortie, Cruz was kept on the bench and given time to observe how Cone’s triangle offense is run by the team.
The Ginebra mentor said he saw Cruz for the first time during the game itself as he yet to attend a single Kings practice following the sudden trade.
“I didn’t want to put him out there without him not knowing what he’s gonna do. But now we have Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to get him involved in offense and make him learn a little bit. We’ll see what we can do to get him involved,” said Cone, whose team improved to a 2-3 record following the 25-point rout of the Bolts.
Cone will get the chance to see Cruz in action for Ginebra when the Kings play the Mahindra Enforcers on Sunday at the Ynares Center in Antipolo, yet this early he envisions him to follow in the footsteps of Bong Hawkins - another undersized forward who frolicked in the triangle during Cone's time at Alaska.
“If he can imitate Bong (Hawkins), he’s gonna be an awesome player,” said Cone. “He’s (Cruz) got the ability to shoot the ball, he can post up, he’s versatile, he can play the ‘3’ or the ‘4’ and he can even pinch to play the ‘5.’
Just like any young big men before him who played under Cone, the Ginebra mentor believes Cruz will thrive in the triangle system.
The fourth pick overall (Rain or Shine) of the 2009 draft, Cruz had decent averages of 7.25 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 16.25 minutes of play in four games with the Energy this conference.
He played his best game for Barako in a 105-91 loss to Globalport, finishing with 13 points and six rebounds in 27 minutes of play. Ironically, he had his worst game opposite Ginebra with just a single point and a single rebound in five minutes of action, although the Energy won the match, 82-79.
“We’ll find a way to use him. We like him a lot that’s why we traded for him,” said Cone.