MARK Cruz got a baptism of fire on his return to the PBA, finishing a close game for Blackwater in a match-up against TNT KaTropa star Jayson Castro.
Enduring a bad back that flared up overnight, the 5-6 guard played well enough to get the nod from Nard Pinto, Denok Miranda and Roi Sumang as he finished the game for the Elite.
The former Letran star scored seven points and, for the most part, held his own against Castro but couldn't save Blackwater from falling to a close 89-92 defeat.
"The night before the game, medyo masakit yung likod ko eh. Sabi ko, Jayson Castro ang bilis nun. Ako naman, lagi kong hinahanda yung sarili ko," Cruz said.
"Nagpatulong ako sa PT ko kung anong pwedeng gawin para medyo mawala yung sakit. Ayun, natulungan naman ako, kaya lang kinapos eh," he added.
Dropped by Phoenix at the end of his rookie season, Cruz found a way back to the big league after an impressive stint with Tanduay in the D-League.
Now he vowed to make most of the second chance.
"In the end, hindi naman ibig sabihin na nakuha ko na (yung spot). Pagtra-trabahuhan parin. Marami pa akong maimprove - alam ko sa sarili ko 'yun," said 24-year-old guard said.
"Tignan natin kung ano pang maitutulong ko. Sa practice gagawin ko naman lahat," he added.
Admitting that Blackwater coach Leo Isaac's trust in him boosted his confidence, the former NCAA Finals MVP promised to repay the faith of his new team in the coming games.
"Iba yung feeling. Tataas talaga yung kumpyansa mo," he said. "Pero siyempre mas okay kung natapos ko ng mas maayos. Hopefully next game, magtuloy-tuloy na."