MANILA, Philippines — With Joe Devance not playing to a hundred percent, all eyes were on Japeth Aguiilar to carry the burden.
But in Barangay Ginebra’s series-equalizing win over Star Wednesday night, it was Jervy Cruz who took center stage.
The 6-foot-3 big man, played like he was reprising his role as a star in college. He grabbed rebounds, blocked a shot, facilitated on plays, and shot the ball like he belonged to the same bunch as Kevin Ferrer and Jio Jalalon.
And when the dust settled? He emerged as the Kings’ primary source of firepower with 21 points.
“Mentality ko lang talaga na maging aggressive sa loob ng court,” Cruz said. “Every time na i-pasok ako ni coach, gusto ko mag-contribute. Kahit na sa kaunting minutes lang.”
Cruz, a former Most Valuable Player in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines, joined Ginebra late in 2015. After being a force off the bench for Rain or Shine, he went on to pick up a lesser role in a stacked Kings roster.
But all that didn’t matter, as he again flaunted an efficient outing—as if flashing his old self when he represented University of Santo Tomas.
“Nagulat din ako,” Cruz said of his display. “‘Di ko naman ine-expect. Sabi ko nga, basta manalo lang kami, at maka-contribute ng kaunti, masaya na ako. Bata manalo lang ang team.”
When the final buzzer sounded, his numbers read: 21 points, six rebounds, three assists and a steal on a error-less play.
Asked about his outlook entering the game, the soft-spoken forward said that he just stayed aggressive, heeding coach Tim Cone’s request. And he is looking to continue that approach, especially now that he is reaping benefits off it.
“Ganoon parin, walang magbbago. Basta mag-stay aggressive lang kami, tapos pag may time na makakuha ng rebound, kunin ang rebound at tumulong.”
“We had some guys that we don’t normally talk about,” Cone said in a separate interview. “They did their work today and that's a good feeling from a coaching standpoint.”
“It was about other guys today,” he noted.