THERE’s no such thing as sophomore jinx for Jericho Cruz.
The Rain or Shine guard sustained his impressive play in his second year as a pro, leading the Elasto Painters to a 103-81 rout of Blackwater in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup on Saturday at the Astrodome.
Cruz registered a career-high 23 points – surpassing his previous record of 16 he notched earlier this conference – on 8-of-10 shooting from the field and 4-of-4 from the foul line, on top of three assists, two boards, and one steal in just 20 minutes off the bench.
“Naka-tsamba lang,” the former Adamson star said with a smile, before turning serious. “Nag-pay off yung hardwork na ginagawa ko. I'm just playing, trying to have fun.”
“ Kahit ipasok ako ni coach Yeng ng third quarter, fourth quarter, first quarter, ie-enjoy ko lang yung game,” he added. “It doesn't matter kung konti lang ang playing time. Chinecherish ko yung moment na nasa loob ako.”
Coach Yeng Guiao praised the 6-foot-1 combo guard for quickly raising his game to the next level after being last year’s ninth overall pick.
“He's blended well and I think he picked up his game, he learned his role very quickly,” Guiao said. “Mabilis yung transition nya from being a rookie to being a sophomore, on being able to find his proper place with the team.”
The injury to star Paul Lee has also been a blessing in disguise for Cruz.
“Ginanahan din ako kasi nawala si Paul, knowing Paul is one of the best players,” Cruz, who turned 25 last November 11, said. “Gusto ko lang mag-step up and fill the gaps left by his role.”