It was Season 75 and the Adamson Falcons were struggling through their first few games and were about to face a red-hot UST squad. A few days back, Alex Nuyles had re-injured his shoulder and was ruled out for the rest of the season.
It seemed Adamson was dead in the water, but then rookie, Jericho Cruz, had other ideas in mind. The RTU-transferee broke out of his shell, drilling seven three pointers in the first half and helped Adamson keep in pace of a loaded UST squad who had a gallery of Tomasinos in the Araneta Colesium backing them. Cruz had no problem playing the antagonist, blowing and silencing the crowd in gold en route to a career-high 33 points. Adamson lost the game but Cruz established himself as the head honcho of an Adamson team in flux.
Cruz played balls to the wall from that point up until he left San Marcelino. His reckless forays to the rim, physical defense, and uncanny fastbreak finishing vaulted him as on of the top guards in college hoops. Although his chip-on-my-shoulder play rubbed some people the wrong way, Cruz left Adamson a beloved klasmeyt.
Tiebreaker Times caught up with Cruz yesterday after his Adamson Falcons surrendered its fifth straight match to the NU Bulldogs. Unlike many, the Saipan native expressed optimism on the future prospects of his Adamson Falcons. “Bata pa ‘yung players natin, puro rookies pa. Pero maganda naman ‘yung nilalaro nila. Whenever I practice with them, I always tell them just to keep working hard and keep their heads up. Susunod na ‘yung panalo niyo doon.”
When asked who he thought was Adamson’s next Jericho Cruz, he confidently replied,”magaling ‘yung [JD] Tungcab. Nung last year ko sa Adamson, he came into the Juniors program and you could alredy see his potential kahit sa practice lang. Mabilis siya saka wala ring takot maglaro. He just needs to develop his jump shot and get stronger – wala ng makakabantay sa kanya sa college kung magawa niya yoon.”
Cruz knows the importance of developing a jumper. Coming into Adamson, Cruz was know more as a streak shooter. Slowly, Cruz worked on the mechanics of jumper – utilizing a quicker release and getting more lift on his jump – and developed it enough that he became a decent three-point threat.
This has greatly helped Cruz in the PBA. Playing for a loaded and highly-successful Rain or Shine team, he says he just tried his best to help the team when coach Yeng Guiao called his number.
“Alam naman natin na strict talaga si coach Yeng and he really tries to use all of his players. Ginawa ko lang lahat ng sinasabi sa akin niya sa akin – kapag pinapasok ako sa game I just tried my best to produce and to help the team win,” said Cruz.
Jericho played his way into a definite spot on the Rain or Shine rotation, even logging crunch time minutes in crucial games in the playoffs. His hardwork also merited a PBA Press Corps. All-Rookie Team nod. “I totally didn’t expect the honor. Siguro it is just more motivation for me to keep working hard and provide for my family.”
To close the interview, Cruz relayed confidence in RoS’s upcoming campaign in the PBA All-Filipino Cup. “Everyone got better but I think our team has improved a lot too. Hopefully we can stay healthy. Sa tingin ko mag-chachampion kami.”
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