Art dela Cruz not on Gilas pool to make up the numbers: 'I'll try my best to make the team'
Art Dela Cruz says Blackwater's rise to respectability has opened an opportunity for him to join the Gilas pool. Jerome Ascano

ARTHUR Dela Cruz has offered to his Blackwater family the honor of being selected to be part of the Gilas 5.0 training pool.

The 24-year-old wingman said his inclusion in the 12-man ‘veteran list’ of coach Chot Reyes for the national team wouldn’t have been possible without the help and support of his teammates.

“Dahil sa team ko yun kaya napansin tayo kahit paano. Kung hindi dahil sa kanila, wala rin naman tayo,” said Dela Cruz, who joins rookie Mac Belo as the Elite’s representatives to the 24-man training pool for the Fiba Asia Cup tournament that serves as qualifier to the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.

The son of former PBA player and now coach Art dela Cruz has not been a part of a 12-man national team roster before. The closest he got to wearing the country’s color was in a 3x3 tournament in Bali, Indonesia while still in high school at San Beda.

“Kaya hindi naman ganoon kahirap yung communication namin dahil tatlo lang kaming naglalaro (sa court),” he said about the experience.

[See Pingris says Gilas in good hands with Calvin Abueva: 'S'ya na parang pumalit sa akin']

He was supposed to be part of the Gilas cadets team of coach Tab Baldwin to the 2015 Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) Championship, but passed on the opportunity since according to him, he was all bent on turning pro that same year.

Now, he’s not about to miss this chance.

“Ibang level na ito. Qualifier for (World Championship), kaya given the chance, I’ll try my best to make the team,” said Dela Cruz, who was hesitant at first to believe his inclusion in the Gilas training pool when first informed him about it Friday night, two days before Reyes made the official announcement.

Being named to the national pool also meant working anew with the group of former Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Manny V. Pangilinan, who is known as the major backer of the San Beda team in the NCAA.

“Hindi na rin naman iba sa akin yung MVP Group. I have been there before,” said Dela Cruz, who won three college rings with the Red Lions during his stint with the school from 2012-2015.

Before leaving the Mendiola-based school, Dela Cruz bared Pangilinan extended an invitation to him about the possibility of working together again, this time with the national team.


And now, it’s finally here.

[See Grading the Gilas cadets: Which players have a shot at making Chot Reyes' final lineup?]

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos