After months of uncertainties, Jericho Cruz can't wait to kick start his career again with the NLEX Road Warriors.
A three-team trade among Talk N' Text, NorthPort and NLEX paved the way for the release of Cruz, who was relegated to the restricted free agent list by the KaTropa.
The urgency to acquire a reliable point guard prompted the Road Warriors to seek a trade that ultimately reunite Cruz with coach Yeng Guiao. The two worked together at Rain or Shine.
"I'm very much hoping na bibigyan niya ulit sa akin yung tiwala niya kasi malaking bagay yun sa player .... pag may tiwala sayo yung coach mo," said Cruz, who was thrilled upon learning that TNT had released him.
The deal approved by the PBA Commissioner's Office stipulates that NLEX acquired NorthPort's 2020 second round pick in exchange for Marion Magat, who was later dealt by NorthPort along with its 2021 and 2022 second round draft picks to TNT for Jericho Cruz and Michael Miranda.
NorthPort, which acted as a conduit in the trade, eventually shipped Cruz to NLEX in exchange for two future second round picks that Road Warriors acquired from previous dealings with Phoenix and Columbian.
Cruz's career appeared headed to a dead end after he was told to stop attending TNT practice sessions amid rumors of disagreement with team consultant Mark Dickel.
Cruz was selected ninth overall pick by ROS in the 2014 draft and his career blossomed under Guiao.
The 2015-16 season marked the high point of Cruz's PBA career as he became part of ROS championship team that dominated the Commissioner's Cup. That year, he also made his first All-Star Game appearance and won the Most Improved Player honors.
"Wala ako sa kinalalagyan ko ngayon kung di dahil kay coach Yeng," Cruz said. "Siya yung nagbigay ng daan sa akin sa PBA. Binigyan niya ako ng tiwala and chance na makapaglaro. Kumbaga siya yung nagbigay buhay sa career ko sa PBA."
Cruz attended his first practice with NLEX on Tuesday. He readily admitted that it may take a while before he gets his rhythm back.
During his inactivity, Cruz spent the past weeks doing boxing workouts and playing recreational ball with neighbors to stay fit.
He is set to make his debut on Friday when NLEX tries to score a breakthrough win in the PBA Commissioner's Cup against Magnolia at the Mall of Asia Arena. (JT)