MANILA, Philippines – Television commentators and even an arena announcer have taken to calling him the "Ant-Man," and Letran's diminutive Mark Cruz is only too thrilled to be compared to the Marvel superhero.
"Nakausap ko si (ABS-CBN Sports commentator) Andrei Felix, and sabi niya tatawagin niya daw ako noon," Cruz said hours after scoring 15 points in Letran's 79-71 win over Perpetual Help.
"S'yempre nakakatuwa dahil si Ant-Man, superhero siya," he added.
Cruz has not yet had the time to watch Ant-Man, the latest movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that features Scott Lang, a man who wears a suit that allows him to shrink to the size of an ant.
Then again, Cruz has been busy leading the Knights to an unbeaten record in the NCAA Season 91 men's basketball tournament. Their win over the Altas on Thursday was their fifth straight of the season and allowed them to claim the solo lead.
Cruz, who has been on a roll to start the season, says he is happy to show the way for "smaller" players who hope to one day compete in the collegiate level.
"'Yun 'yung gusto kong ma-feel ng ibang players na undersized, na hindi biniyayaan ng height," Cruz said. "Gusto ko ma-feel nila na kahit maliit kami, hindi kami uurong kahit sino kalaban namin. So ini-inspire ko silang lahat."
For Cruz, his diminutive stature is not a deterrent, and only inspires him to show that he can do what other taller players can do.
"S'yempre, pag maliit ka, ang tingin ng ibang tao ay maunti ang magagawa mo," he said. "Pero kung dedicated ka or willing ka na gawin 'yun, katulad ng mag-rebound, makukuha mo naman."
Cruz is also taking a cue from another undersized player who competed at the highest levels of basketball – retired PBA superstar Jimmy Alapag, the Mighty Mouse, who captained the national team in their stint in the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
"Si Jimmy Alapag ang favorite player ko," he said. "Nakikita ko sa kanya 'yun, dahil buo ang puso niya. Nakapag-represent pa siya sa Philippines."