by Ernest Hernandez
For Jericho Cruz and his family, being informed that he will soon be joining his new teammates with the NLEX Road Warriors is a breathe of fresh air.
Called to report to practice the very next day after the trade, he will be welcomed by his former coach Yeng Guiao. Both were together before with the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.
“It feels great, we’ve been waiting for this news for quite some time na,” said Cruz to Manila Bulletin Sports Online.
“Yung excitement ang tagal ng pinaramdam sakin. I’m excited to play sa NLEX especially, kay Coach Yeng ulit,” adds the former Adamson Falcon.
A three-way trade involving NLEX, NorthPort, and TnT KaTropa allowed him to be where he is right now.
Under the deal, Northport will get Michael Miranda from TNT and two second round picks for 2019 and 2020. In return, TNT will get two second-round picks from NorthPort and the services of Marion Magat from NLEX. Along with Cruz, NLEX will get NorthPort’s second-round pick in 2020.
Desperately seeking help in the guard rotation after losing Kevin Alas and waiting for Kiefer Ravena’s ban to be lifted, NLEX could get a big lift with Cruz. The Road Warriors are off to a miserable 0-5 start in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
More so that NLEX will get someone who is already proven to run well under Yeng Guiao’s system.
“Eto yung pinaka exciting na part, yung magiging under ulit ako kay Coach Yeng,” said Cruz. “I miss how he is as a coach, yung discipline niya sa players and tiwala sa bawat isa sa players niya, yun ang pinaka importante.”
The six-foot-one guard was drafted as the 9th overall pick in the 2014 PBA draft by the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters under Guiao. Cruz proved that he belongs in the league by making the 2015 PBA All-Rookie Team.
The following year, he rewarded his coach’s trust by doubling his averages the following year and winning the 2016 PBA Most Improved Player, 2016 PBA Mr. Quality Minutes, and was a critical piece in securing the team’s 2016 Commissioner’s Cup championship.
The three-time PBA All-Star was then traded to TNT KaTropa on February 15, 2018, and a year and a half later, he finds himself reuniting with Guiao in NLEX.
“Of course, first I want to thank Coach Yeng talaga. Ever since, siya yung nagbigay ng chance sakin magpakita sa PBA, yung mga awards ko dahil kay Coach din yun. Gusto ko mag pasalamat sa tiwala niya sakin talaga.” a grateful Cruz acknowledged.
“Also, gusto ko magpasalamat sa mga taong tumulong sakin lalo na nung times na nandun tayo sa hindi naglalaro and all, madaming mga friends and bosses na nag reach out sa kin and I really appreciate that. Siyempre di mawawala yung pagpapasalamat ko sa family and close friends ko na kasama ko sa journey na to,” he added.
Cruz will be suiting up a NLEX Road Warrior jersey for the first time when they face the Magnolia Hotshots on Friday, June 14 at the Mall of Asia Arena.