Rookie Carl Cruz made a good impression in his first PBA game, finishing with 20 points and 14 rebounds in Alaska’s losing effort (97-99) against NLEX last Friday night. Despite the game’s outcome, head coach Alex Compton can rest assured in the knowledge that he’s got something to look forward to after seeing the newest Ace step up in the absence of injured front liners Calvin Abueva and Sonny Thoss.
“I don’t think it’s fair to expect for a rookie to score 20 points and 14 rebounds, that’s a tremendous game and tremendous effort for him to make those shots,” Compton said. “He can make shots, but I think what I like the most is that shooters like Dondon (Hontiveros), Jimmy (Alapag), Allan Caidic had off-nights. Those guys have off-nights, but it was the 14 rebounds as a rookie that I really like.”
Cruz played both center and forward and paired with Vic Manuel, holding their own against the NLEX Road Warriors. He shot 6-for-13 from the field and hit four three-point shots.
With Abueva, who suffered a tear in his quad, and Thoss still recuperating from injury, Cruz is expected to play a major role for the Aces.
Cruz didn’t expect that he’ll be given major minutes in his first PBA game, telling PlayPH, “Hindi ko rin ini-expect na ganito pero may mga injured players kami so everybody needs to step up. Sinuwerte lang ako nabigyan ako ng playing time ni Coach. Ready naman ako at the same time,” added Cruz.
Compton believes Cruz, picked No.10 by the Aces in the recent draft, could be a big steal among those Gilas Cadet stalwarts who entered the PBA.
“There are a lot of rookies who came in, but we picked him up at No. 10,” said Compton. “There are a lot of rookies who came in and played great in their first game, but it was the effort he showed in rebounds which impressed me the most. If he does that every game, it’s good for me, but it’s unfair to expect that for a rookie. I’m just happy we found a player who could be an integral part of the program.”
For more on Carl Cruz, check out his interview with PlayPH following his Alaska Aces contract signing!