ROOKIE Jericho Cruz admitted he was surprised to still be on the court during the endgame of Rain or Shine's match against Alaska on Friday night.
“First time ko ito to finish a game, pero sa akin, may konting gulat, but at the same time, i-cherish ko na lang yung moment,” said the former Adamson gunner.
He also made the most of it.
The ninth pick overall in this season's rookie draft scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, including back-to-back baskets that sealed Rain or Shine's 98-95 win over Alaska in the PBA Philippine Cup.
The 24-year-old freshman also reserved his best for last, beating everybody for the rebound after a free-throw miss by Jeff Chan and scoring on a putback that put Rain or Shine on top for good, 96-95.
To cap off his heroics, he broke loose on the fastbreak to score again for the final tally, prompting Yeng Guiao to quip after the game, "(Cruz) made us look good when he picked him in the rookie draft."
“Basta sa akin, laro lang ako kung bibigyan ako ni coach ng playing time," Cruz said. "Pinasok ako kanina halos mag second half na, pero di ko na iniisip 'yun.”
Cruz has readily felt at home at Rain or Shine and found his place in Guiao's deep backcourt rotation, averaging 7.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in 17.5 minutes of play this conference.
He is also working hard in practice, following the lead of teammates Paul Lee and Ryan Arana who arrive for training early to do extra work on their games.
“Kahit sa practice namin, parang family kami talaga, nagbibiruan. So feeling ko naman, pagpasok naming ng semis, nandun pa rin yung samahan namin at chemistry namin,” he said.
“Madami din akong natutunan kina Paul at Ryan. Palagi silang maaga sa practice kaya ako din maaga, nakukuiha ko yung style nila.”