by Jonas Terrado
Jericho Cruz is hoping that his reunion with coach Yeng Guiao at NLEX will result in the resurrection of a PBA career that was stalled after being left out of the active roster by TNT KaTropa prior to Monday’s three-way trade.
Cruz felt ecstatic after the league approved the deal that sent him to the Road Warriors in the deal with the KaTropa and the NorthPort Batang Pier, who served as a trade conduit.
“I’m very much hoping na bibigyan niya ulit sa akin yung tiwala niya kasi malaking bagay yun sa player, pag may tiwala sayo yung coach mo,” Cruz said moments after the trade was announced.
It was Guiao who drafted Cruz as the ninth overall pick of the 2014 draft when the fiery mentor was still calling the shots for Rain or Shine.
Cruz blossomed under Guiao, playing a key role in Rain or Shine’s title victory in the 2016 Commissioner’s Cup while winning the Most Improved Player award.
Guiao eventually left for NLEX before the 2016-17 season while Cruz was dealt to TNT in 2018 despite efforts by the Road Warriors to broker a trade with the Elasto Painters.
“Wala ako kung saan man ako ngayon kung hindi dahil sa kanya,” Cruz said. “Siya yung nagbigay ng daan sa akin sa PBA. Binigyan niya ako ng tiwala and chance na makapaglaro. Kumbaga siya yung bumuhay ng career ko sa PBA.”
Cruz will get another chance at a revival after spending months on the shelf when TNT mysteriously placed him on the injured list.
The former Adamson star is set to join his first practice on Tuesday, though Cruz expects to have a rough patch in terms of conditioning.
He had spent the past few weeks trying to get in shape by doing boxing drills and even play basketball recreationally with friends.
“Pero yung competitive ball wala masyado,” he admitted. “Kaya siguro maninibago nanaman ako pag balik ko sa practice. Siguro konting adjustments lang sa system ni coach Yeng kasi medyo alam ko na yung iba e.
“Siguro more on sa rhythm and timing lang kailangan ko and yung game shape,” added Cruz.
Cruz is expected to make his debut on Friday when NLEX tries to end a 0-5 start in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup against Magnolia at the Mall of Asia Arena.