New NLEX Road Warrior Jericho Cruz is eager to get back on track after finally getting traded by his former team.
Just a day after the deal with the TNT KaTropa was consummated, Cruz immediately reported to his new squad for practice at the FCL Center on Tuesday.
Feeling relieved and anxious, the 28-year old guard woke up at the crack of dawn, almost four hours before the scheduled 9 a.m. practice. He headed to the practice facility to hoist up some shots - something he hadn't experienced for over two months.
Cruz last saw action on March 24. He had seven points, four rebounds, and an assists in almost 17 minutes of game time in TNT's 109-84 loss to NorthPort.
"I was actually boxing, when somebody told me [the deal] was a go," Cruz told ESPN5. "I was so happy, I was not able to finish my workout. I immediately went home and told my wife the good news."
Cruz, however, harbors no ill will towards his former team, understanding that everything boiled down to business decisions.
"I have nothing against Talk 'N Text. They're doing good. I wish them the best. I hope they make the [Commissioner's Cup] Finals," clarified Cruz.
At NLEX, Cruz will reunite with some familiar faces in coach Yeng Guiao and JR Quiñahan, key figures who were there when he played for the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters from 2014 to 2018.
Joining the squad might be easier for Cruz as he will now operate under a similar system Guiao used with Rain or Shine. Quiñahan welcomed him like a long lost brother.
"We always meet, sometimes in out-of-town trips with our families. Even with our other former ROS teammates. We maintain a group chat, so it's not a new thing that we're meeting once more," explained Quinahan.
Cruz joins a squad that has not tasted victory yet this conference. His presence immediately helps NLEX which is in dire need of guard play. Kiefer Ravena is still weeks away from a return to practice, while Kevin Alas is recovering from his second anterior cruciate ligament tear.
"I think his scoring, his playmaking and I think there's some kind of leadership quality in Jericho, and he's the kind of person or player that's not afraid to speak out. And we're looking for that. And we need some vocal leaders in the team," shared NLEX assistant Jojo Lastimosa.
As his team continues to search for that elusive victory, Cruz may find himself debuting for NLEX this Friday against the Magnolia Hotshots.
He may still not be in game shape due to his long layoff, but Lastimosa believes Cruz can play 20 to 30 minutes.
With the impending return of Guiao, Cruz believes he will be rejuvenated by the incessant sermons of the famed disciplinarian tactician.
"I'm waiting for him," Cruz said. "I even miss his cursing!"