THE punch you don’t see coming is the one that hurts the most, so goes the old boxing adage. It also holds true in basketball, as newly traded rookie Mark Cruz attests.
Just as things were looking up for him at Star Hotshots, Cruz was absolutely floored with the unexpected news on Tuesday that he was traded to the Phoenix FuelMasters along with fellow freshman Norbert Torres and veteran guard Jonathan Uyloan for the pair of RR Garcia and Rodney Brondial.
The 5-foot-5 cager, the smallest among the current crop of PBA players, said Star coach Jason Webb personally relayed to him the news about the trade shortly before it was consummated. But that didn’t ease the pain, he admitted.
The finals MVP of the NCAA Season 91 men’s basketball tournament was in fact so taken aback by the move that he laid low on social media for a while despite fans flooding his timeline and feed to reach out to him.
“Hindi ako makasagot agad dahil nga nalulungkot din ako,” he said. “Pagpasensiyahan ninyo na lang muna ako.”
“Nalungkot talaga ako dahil kung kelan ka adopted na sa system nila (Hotshots), biglang palit na naman ng team. That means panibagong adjustment uli,” added the 25-year-old point guard.
While he looks forward to the new challenge ahead of him at Phoenix, Cruz glanced back at his short stint with Star and bared some of the things he’ll miss the most from his Hotshots family.
Cruz said he’ll certainly miss the bonding he had with the Hotshots, especially veterans James Yap, Marc Pingris, PJ Simon, and yes, even seldom-used Jerwin Gaco.
“Sila yung makukulit dun,” the younger brother of former PBA player Marvin Cruz said as he tries to lighten the mood. “Pinakita kasi nila sa akin na part ako agad ng pamilya, kesyo rookie ako. Yung respeto na binigay agad nila sa akin, siguradong mami-miss ko.”
And then there’s deputy coach Johnny Abarrientos.
“Si coach Johnny yung talagang parang mentor ko doon. Nagti-tiyaga siya na turuan ako sa practice,” he said of the former MVP and league great.
Cruz said he’s already excited to play for the FuelMasters especially with Torres as teammate and joining veterans such as Mick Pennisi, Josh Urbiztondo, and JC Intal, a former star player of Letran’s high school team.
His previous contract with Star is set to expire by August, but he’s keeping his fingers crossed that it will be extended by Phoenix management.