MANILA, Philippines -- Jericho Cruz won't deny that he misses playing for former San Miguel coach Leo Austria, but he understands the nature of professional basketball as well.
Cruz signed with San Miguel Beer as a free agent in March 2022, reuniting him with Austria who was his head coach in Adamson University. He went on to help the Beermen win the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup championship, which he considers a highlight of his career.
"Magkasama kami nun sa Adamson, hindi kami nanalo. Kahit papano nung nawala si Coach Leo, nagka-champion kami isa," said Cruz. "'Yun 'yung mga memory na I'll cherish for the rest of my life."
But Austria is no longer the head coach of San Miguel, having been formally replaced by Jorge Gallent ahead of the season-ending Governors' Cup.
"Nakaka-miss din 'yung si Coach Leo," admitted Cruz.
The guard was quick to point out that it's part and parcel of their lives as professionals, however.
"Ganoon ang buhay basketball natin eh, 'di ba? 'Di natin alam -- even kami as players, 'di natin alam kung hanggang kailan kami maglalaro or hanggang kailan kami rito sa team na 'to," Cruz said. "Ito 'yung business natin e, 'di ba?"
Rather than dwell on Austria's exit from the team, Cruz said he will focus on his role in San Miguel, and keep himself ready for what is asked of him by their new head coach.
He struggled in their first game of the Governors' Cup, scoring just two points in a win over Phoenix Super LPG last Sunday. But he made up for it on Wednesday night, sparking their 105-86 rout of Blackwater by firing 10 of his 22 points in the second period.
"I'm doing my best to do what I can to help my team win. Kung anuman 'yung ma-contribute ko sa team, whether playing offense or defense or even cheering for them, gagawin ko talaga 'yun. It's all about winning for me," Cruz stressed.
It helps that not much changed in their system when Gallent formally took over, and their coaching staff encouraged him to bounce back after his subpar outing against the Fuel Masters.
"Wala namang nagbago. Natutuwa naman ako kasi alam kong laki ng tiwala nila sa akin. Pero sa side ko gusto ko rin ibalik 'yung tiwala nila na binibigay sa akin," said Cruz.
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