PBA: Wait was worth it as Dela Cruz getting his groove back in Ginebra

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Apr 06, 2019 10:21 PM
PBA: Wait was worth it as Dela Cruz getting his groove back
Art Dela Cruz is on track for a return as the player who put up a solid rookie season for Blackwater and who starred for San Beda

Before the 2019 PBA Philippine Cup, Art Dela Cruz had not played for nearly two years.

That is exactly why it's easy to forget that back in the 2015 PBA Draft, the versatile forward was actually one of the top prospects.

Then, Dela Cruz was coming off a stellar final year for San Beda University where he averaged 17.7 points in 51.8% shooting, 10 rebounds, and six assists.

From there, he was drafted ninth overall and then proceeded to put up quite a solid rookie season for Blackwater.

And then, the Achilles injury happened.

That cost the now 26-year-old five conferences and almost two seasons.

Still, he persevered and finally took the court once more in Ginebra's campaign in the current conference.

And on Saturday at MOA Arena, the 6-foot-4 wing was a big part of their convincing victory versus archrival Magnolia in Game 1 of their three-game "Quarterfinals Clasico."

Turning in his best game as of late with 14 points, three rebounds, and two assists in 24 minutes of play, he was one of five players in double-digits. "Sobrang happy. Sobrang happy na yung injuries ko, na-surpass ko na," he told reporters following his best game as of late.

For head coach Tim Cone, however, it was just a matter of time before Dela Cruz was going to re-introduce himself. "We're not surprised that he's playing like this at all. We think he's only gonna get better and better and better," he said.

With that full faith from his mentor, the former San Beda standout had all the motivation he needed. As he put it, "Si Coach Tim, nagtiis siya kasi ilang taon din akong nakaupo, pero eto, nagbubunga na yung paghihintay nila. Sana, magtuloy-tuloy na kasi ang hirap ng pinagdaanan ko as a person, as a player."

He then continued, "Walang makapaghihintay nang ganun."

Dela Cruz had to work even harder as he had to force his way into a crowded forward rotation that includes the likes of Aljon Mariano and Kevin Ferrer. "'Di naman sa pagmamayabang, pero mahirap kumuha ng playing time dito. Kumbaga sa mga players pa lang dito, kailangan mong magtiyaga sa practice tapos sila coach pa," he said.

He then continued, "Ang hirap kumuha ng tiwala kaya thankful ako sa spot na 'to."

Now he has returned to action and is on track to full strength, he is nothing but thankful for all that the Gin Kings have invested in him. "Salamat, salamat sa suporta hindi lang sa coach kundi pati sa teammates, fans, at management," he said.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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