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    There's a reason why SMB coach Leo Austria has recruited his former college players Jericho Cruz and Rodney Brondial.
    There's a reason why SMB coach Leo Austria has recruited his former college players Jericho Cruz and Rodney Brondial.
    PHOTO: PBA Images

    TWO players from Adamson have reunited with Leo Austria at San Miguel and it feels like the good ol' days for Jericho Cruz and Rodney Brondial.

    Just like during their time with the Falcons, Cruz and Brondial have been flying high for the Beermen at a time when the powerhouse team is hobbled by injuries to key players such as Chris Ross, Terrence Romeo, and Mo Tautuaa.

    The decision of Cruz and Brondial to sign with the Beermen as unrestricted free agents was of course motivated by the prospect of a reunion with Austria, who made the Falcons a perennial playoff contender in the UAAP during their time together.

    But even with Austria’s jump to the PBA where he won multiple championships, Cruz and Brondial said he remained the same coach they knew years ago.

    “Alam naman natin si coach Leo, hindi nagagalit eh,” said Cruz, who played for Rizal Technological University before transferring to join Austria at Adamson. “Kahit marami akong tinira na mintis, pero nakukuha ko rin, kapag tumitingin ako sa bench, hindi siya nagagalit.”

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    Brondial, who Austria recruited after seeing him play in an inter-barangay league, said the San Miguel mentor remains the same person he knew in the past.

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    “Marami na kasi akong naging coach eh, binabalik ko, nagugulat ako, tagal na pala,” Brondial said on whether Austria had changed over the years. “[From] 2009 hanggang 2013 ata ako naging player ni coach Leo eh. Eh 2022 na ngayon. Halos nine years na.

    “Pero si coach Leo ganun pa rin style niya at sobrang bait talaga,” said Brondial.

    That familiarity has been one of the reasons for their solid play of late at SMB.

    Cruz has been averaging 13.3 points per game thanks to a 22-point outing against Converge last June 26. He is also averaging 4.0 assists as he pinch-hits in the role of a point guard with Ross out due to an injury.

    With Tautuaa out, Brondial has been admirably filling the void. His importance was underlined n the match against Rain or Shine on June 29, where the back-up big man scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the win.

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    Cruz said his familiarity with Austria and his system has made adjustment period almost seamless after he signed with San Miguel last March, as well as in his new job filling in for Ross.

    “May mga times sa practice na nagdo-drawing siya ng play, biglang nagpopop-up sa isip ko na ‘Coach, eto ‘yung ginagawa natin sa Adamson.’ Medyo, para sa akin, madali na lang mag-adjust. Dalawang beses pa lang itakbo, eto na ‘yun, okay na, alam ko na,” said Cruz.

    “Pagdating sa game, siyempre nangangapa pa rin ako. Ako ‘yung point guard. Wala si Chris Ross. We all know na babalik at babalik naman siya. Ako I’m just doing my part na kahit hindi naman talaga ako point guard, ginrab ko ‘yung opportunity para matulungan ‘yung team,” he added.

    Brondial, who signed with San Miguel last January, feels the same way.

    “Minsan may mga plays na tinatawag na parang, ‘Uy, parang familiar ako dito kasi Adamson play ito.’ Pero dito kasi sa amin, masasabi ko nag-aadjust pa rin kami kasi hindi pa rin kami nakukumpleto.

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    "May mga injuries. Kinakapa pa rin namin ‘yung tamang combination. Nag-aadjust pa rin. Hopefully, sa mga mas malalakas at mas importanteng games, maging solid kami,” said Brondial.

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    There's a reason why SMB coach Leo Austria has recruited his former college players Jericho Cruz and Rodney Brondial.
    PHOTO: PBA Images
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