Shortly before lunch on Nov 4, 25-year old Carl Cruz signed the contract that officially made him a member of the Alaska Aces family. Drawn from the ranks of Gilas 5.0 as part of a new program to give PBA franchises a stake in international tournaments, Cruz was a far cry from the unfit child he’d been before taking up basketball.
Indeed, in his younger years, Cruz told PlayPH he was such a fan of online games that his father would become upset with the hours he spent playing in computer shops. It was only later, in high school, that Cruz discovered an affinity for basketball that led him to try out for his first varsity team, eventually working his way to a position playing for the Far Eastern University Tamaraws and, after graduating, CaféFrance in the PBA D-League.
But the newly-minted Ace thought he’d missed his shot at the PBA when, back in 2015, the then-D-League player suffered a potentially career-ending injury when he suffered an ACL tear in February 2015 as part of Café France. Café France would go on to win the championship that year, but Cruz wouldn’t be a part of it. Even more heartbreakingly, he was forced to sit out that year’s PBA draft.
Through an intense period of recovery, physical therapy, and soul searching, Cruz decided to use the missed opportunities as motivation to get into even better shape than he’d been before the injury. Through hard work and determination, Cruz was back in playing form in six months, returning to CaféFrance to learn that his not being drafted had been a blessing in disguise: he was now eligible for inclusion in Gilas 5.0.
Playing against international-level competition inspired Cruz to level up his own game, improving his outside shooting, and improving his defense. At the same time, facing off against some of the best in the world in the name of his country gave Cruz a pride he’d never known. It was with this newfound confidence and experience that Cruz found himself selected by the Alaska Aces to join their ranks.
“I was surprised! I didn’t expect that Alaska would be the one to get me, but I’m so thankful to be a part of this great team and this management. I used to watch this team on TV, and now I’m going to have the chance to play with people I look up to, and even people who got drafted before me.”
“There’s pressure, of course, and a lot of expectations, but I feel, here in Alaska, I have something to contribute. I’m eager to do what I can to help the team win a championship,” says Cruz.
Having taken part in three consecutive Finals with the Tamaraws in his collegiate years, Cruz knows a thing or two about chasing a title. And now that he’s made it to the pros, Cruz wants to prove both to himself and to those who believe in him just what he’s got.
“The fans have a lot of expectations, and no matter what role I’m given, I don’t want to let them down – I’m’ going to take it one game at a time.”