Art Dela Cruz says he still has long way to go despite 'future superstar' tag from Phoenix coach
Art Dela Cruz scored 18 points for Blackwater in a losing stand against Phoenix. Jerome Ascano

ANTIPOLO CITY – Rookie Art dela Cruz is grateful people are starting to take notice of the way he’s been playing even though the losses keep piling up for Blackwater.

Dela Cruz finished with a team-high 18 points to go with five rebounds in the Elite’s 93-81 setback against Phoenix that bundled them out of the running for a playoff berth in the PBA Governors Cup on Wednesday at the Ynares Center.

But if it was any consolation, Dela Cruz got a perfect compliment from no less than Phoenix coach Ariel Vanguardia after the game.

“I know Art Dela Cruz will be a superstar in this league,” said Vanguardia during the post-game interview.

Although thankful for the kind words, the son of former PBA player and now TNT Katropa deputy Arthur Dela Cruz admitted he still has a lot of learning to do in his promising pro career.

“It’s a long way to go. Mahaba pa naman ang career ko,” he said. “Sabi nga ng daddy ko huwag ilagay sa ulo ko ‘yung fame. Take it as a blessing, and for me every day is a struggle. Hindi naman lagi maganda ang laro.

“But thankful ako na napapansin ni Coach Ariel at ng mga ibang coaches yun.”

[See Reinvigorated Phoenix knocks Blackwater out of playoff contention]

Too bad, the Elite failed to make it again in the playoffs as they suffered their eighth loss in nine outings.

Notwithstanding the losses, Dela Cruz welcomed the opportunity of playing for the Elite, which he said is a ‘blessing in disguise.'

“Rookie lang ako pero I can play how many minutes? Binibigyan ako ng playing minutes ni coach. I don’t want to think na talunan kami, pero maganda ang binibigay sa akin na confidence,” he stressed.

“Masaya ako na kahit ganito kami naipapakita ko yung showcase ko sa game, yung value ko sa team.”

Dela Cruz is not losing hope on Blackwater, saying the team is looking to win its last two games against Globalport and defending champion San Miguel.

“Like what we did in this game and in the past few games, positive lang and stay together,” he said. “Hindi naman namin gustong nasa bottom kami. So lalaruin talaga namin.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos