WITH his flashy handles and massive numbers during the opening games, it was Shintarou who commanded the spotlight for E-Gilas in the ongoing Fiba Esports Open.
He's undoubtedly one of the key reasons for the Philippines' success in the NBA 2K tourney as the national squad swept all four of its games against Indonesia.
"We know our point guard is one of the best in Asia and we just believe that he is, so we just let him have the ball. And then we'll talk about our offensive schemes," said team captain Philippe "Izzo" Herrero.
Aljon "Shintarou" Cruzin has been on cruise control in the Southeast Asian conference, setting up the floor for the national squad like a true court general.
After stellar scoring outings on Friday, he shared the wealth with his peers in the Saturday games, including a 17-point, 6-assist performance in the fourth match.
At times during the blowout games, he even appeared to be toying with his opponents, running the ball downcourt with a series of showy crossovers that the Indonesians seemed powerless to stop.
In a postgame interview with SPIN Life, Coach Nielie "Nite" Alparas revealed that Shintarou was actually one of the newer members of the team. "Since si Shintarou yung bago sa team, lahat ng plays na ginagamit namin tinuro namin sa kanya," he said.
Nite also wanted to give props to another key member of the team.
"Yung performance ni Aguila ang pinaka-proud ako. Siya yung puso ng team. Grabe yung ginagawa nya sa defense," he said. "Lahat sila alam nila yung roles nila and yung mga spaces na dapat nilang puntahan."
Unscathed as E-Gilas may be in this five-game series, Izzo vowed that the Philippines is aiming to finish its campaign strong with one more game left on Sunday.
"For us, it's business as usual," he said.
"We're planning on winning everything and winning the five-game series. It's not yet over. We're not being complacent and we're still looking forward for the next game."
Coach that he is, Nite could not help but spot some key areas for improvement. "We can improve on our decision making. May mga times na open na pero pinapasa pa and may times na dapat ipasa pero tinira."
He added: "Lagi ko sinasabi sa kanila na every possession is important."