Art Dela Cruz did not make the final cut of Gilas Pilipinas Men’s 12-man lineup for the 30th Southeast Asian Games.
But for the 6-foot-4 utility forward, he does not see it as a loss. Rather, he sees it as mission accomplished.
“Expected ko na ‘yun before pa lang. Expected ko na ‘yun. Sabi ko nga, before the start, ang plano lang talaga namin is hawakan ‘yung mahahalagang players at ituro ‘yung system ni Coach Tim [Cone],” said Dela Cruz, echoing what Scottie Thompson disclosed about their role during Gilas’ practices.
“Alam naman natin ‘yung triangle is very hard to learn. Sobrang hirap aralin ‘yun.”
The second generation cager, however, will not stop going to Gilas’ practice heading into the regional meet, which — for basketball — begins on December 4 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
According to Dela Cruz, the decorated mentor sees him as the emergency backup in case anything happens to the players. Yes, he, Thompson, and Greg Slaughter are still the reserves of the national team.
“I’m still thankful na I was part of the top fifteen. Sabi naman ni Coach Tim, na any game you can put any twelve-man lineup, so we’re still going to practice. Kami ni Scottie at Greg. Gagawin namin ‘yung part namin as a reserve,” said the 27-year-old product of San Beda.
“We will still practice hard. Kaya naman tayo nandito dahil kay Coach Tim. We are still going to play hard every game.”
Moreover, Cone disclosed to Dela Cruz that his role is the most valuable, since he can replace any player of the team if need be. Throughout his four-year career, he has proven that he can play multiple positions on the floor, while his skillset is rare in the country.
“Oo naman, kasi masaya na ko nung sinabi niya sa akin na ako ‘yung spot na maraming puwedeng ipasok eh. Ready lang kami ni Scottie at Greg kasi hindi natin alam kung ano puwedeng mangyari sa laro.”