IN just his second game back from a long layoff, Jericho Cruz showed his value to NLEX by finishing with 16 points, three rebounds, and six assists in the Road Warriors’ 100-91 win over Meralco - their first in the PBA Commissioner's Cup.
And it all came naturally for the reborn guard.
“Mukhang madali naman siya maka-blend sa mga kasama niya,” said NLEX coach Yeng Guiao of Cruz, his former player at Rain or Shine who went inactive for almost three months before he was acquired by NLEX in a three-team trade.
“The system is not new to him. I guess this is only his second game but he is close to his potential. It’s a good sign for us," Guiao added. "Sabi ko nga, I’m really excited to see him with Kevin (Alas) and Kiefer (Ravena).”
Aside from Cruz's numbers, Guiao said he is happy that his teammates feed off him.
“The good thing for Jericho is he is also able to bring out the best in other players. Gumanda shooting nila Iggy (Ken Ighalo), nila Bong Galanza. Pati ang import namin. Jericho knows exactly what our ball screen offense is that is why he is able to facilitate, not just score for us. He also plays tenacious defense. He brings a lot to us on both ends,” said Guiao.
Cruz said he simply 'went with the flow' while playing in Guiao's system.
“It’s good to be back. Siguro nakukuha ko ‘to through practice. Alam naman natin ‘yung sistema ni coach, parang ang dali lang. Just go with the flow. ‘Yun ang ginawa namin ngayon. We don’t have any pressure on ourselves,” said Cruz.
Cruz said he was playing the role of facilitator while holding the fort in the absence of Ravena and Alas.
“Just doing my job. I’m just trying to be a creator for our team kasi wala ‘yung nagki-create sa amin which is Kevin and Kiefer. I’m just trying to fill that role. Luckily, gumanda. Lahat ng player, nakahawak ng bola. Na-involve sila lahat. When everybody touches the ball, everyone is happy,” said Cruz.
“May mga spots lang na pag open, I’ll take it. Pero pag hindi open, I won’t take it. Hindi ako namimilit ng tira. Kung ano binibigay ng depensa, binabalik ko rin,” said Cruz.