Going into the 2016 PBA Rookie Draft, the Alaska Aces were looking for another forward who can match the intensity of the “Beast” Calvin Abueva and the “Muscle Man” Vic Manuel. Fortunately for them, they were able to land former Café France Baker and Far Eastern University Tamaraw Carl Cruz during the special Gilas Draft.
Cruz was their only draft pick during the annual festivity. According to lead assistant coach Louie Alas, they passed on the remainder of the draft as the Aces already had 16 players on their roster.
“Marami kaming gusto kaya lang wala na kaming slot eh. Parang unfair sa players na kukunin namin pero di naman namin mapapapirma,” Alas said.
But overall, Alas, speaking for the entire organization, is happy to tap the services of the 6-foot-4 stretch big man.
“Pinapunta namin siya sa practice and we liked what we saw. Stretch four who can run the floor and marunong naman dumepensa. We’re very satisfied with him,” 53-year-old remarked about the Gilas Pilipinas big man.
“Nakikita ko fit siya sa system ni coach Alex [Compton]. Kaya namin pinapunta is to just validate yung nakita namin.”
For the former Tamaraw, he never expected that the Aces would tap his services, even if he had performed well during a private tryout with them.
“Wala akong idea noon e,” the 25-year-old said. “Sa ngayon nakikita ko, sabi naman sa akin ni coach magfi-fit ako sa system nila. Pakita ko na lang talaga yung best ko.”
The chance to play for a storied franchise, consisting of blue-collar players, excites the rookie. “Yung Alaska defensive team sila e. Nasa college days pa ako tsaka sa D-League, tsaka Gilas, magaling talaga ako dumepensa so feeling ko yun ang maitutulong ko sa kanila pag dating sa depensa.”
But what he looks forward to the most is playing side-by-side with one-time Best Player of the Conference Abueva.
“Na-eexcite naman ako na maging kakampi sila. Pinapanood ko lang nung college ako, ngayon magiging kakampi ko na sila. Sila Vic [Manuel], sila Calvin, kuya Dondon [Hontiveros],” he shared.
“Sana ma-adapt ko yung pagiging energetic ni Calvin sa loob ng court.”