In his rookie year with University of Santo Tomas, Mark Nonoy has developed a reputation as one of the top speedsters in the UAAP.
To help him control his gift, Growling Tigers head coach Aldin Ayo did not look far for someone to mentor the 19-year-old floor general.
For UST’s Final Four campaign, Letran great Mark Cruz has been helping out in the team’s practices.
The 5-foot-6 Cruz, who currently plays for Pampanga in the MPBL, was the Finals Most Valuable Player during the Ayo-mentored Knights’ magical run back in the NCAA Season 91 Seniors Basketball Tournament.
Cruz’s presence has been of great help to the young Tigers, according to Nonoy.
“Nakiki-scrimmage din siya sa ‘min, kaya natuturuan din niya kami kung paano dumepensa at umatake ng depensa,” said Nonoy, who stands at 5-foot-8.
“Siyempre, laking tulong sa amin ‘yun kasi alam naman ng lahat na ultimate scorer siya.”
Nonoy in particular can relate to Cruz.
During his first few years in Letran, Cruz delivered the numbers. However, many saw him as a player who struggled with his control. It was only in his senior year that Cruz was able to realize his full potential.
And so Cruz has been telling Nonoy to manage his pace, as it will only lead to good things.
“Napanood niya ‘yung game namin versus FEU kaya sinabi niya sa akin na kailangan ko kontrolin ‘yung speed ko.
“Wala naman daw ibang problema kung hindi ‘yun. Pero sinabihan din niya ako kung paano maging leader sa court, paano pumasa ng tama sa mga teammates ko. ‘Yun ‘yung advice niya sa akin,” said Nonoy, who had six points in UST’s 81-71 win over FEU to advance to the next stage of the stepladder last Wednesday.
Besides the on-court knowledge, having Cruz around inspires Nonoy.
“Nakaka-inspire kasi champion na siya e. Alam na niya ‘yung feeling na mag-champion. Sobrang grateful ako kasi madami siyang tinuro sa akin tungkol sa basketball na hindi ko pa alam,” said Nonoy, who was just 15 years old when Letran toppled San Beda in Season 91.
“Sana ma-apply ko lahat ng tinuro niya in the future.”