Cruz off to a nice start, helps NLEX nab first win

Road Warriors get on the board (1:20)

Import Tony Mitchell delivered 32 points and 19 rebounds to power NLEX past Meralco for the Road Warriors' first win of the Commissioner's Cup. (1:20)

NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao believes that Jericho Cruz is fitting in nicely with the Road Warriors.

"It looks like he's blending well with his teammates. This is only his second game but he's close to his potential so it's a good sign for us," Guiao said after NLEX ended a six-game skid with a win over Meralco on Wednesday.

Following a quiet debut last week, Cruz bounced back with 16 points and six assists in the Road Warriors' first conference victory. It helped that the new NLEX guard knows Guiao's system well, having played under the coach during his first two years in the PBA with Rain or Shine.

"For me, it's good to be back. I probably get this through practice," Cruz said about his performance. "We all know that coach's system is easy -- more on go with the flow -- and that's what we did. Luckily, we won this game."

Languishing at the bottom of the standings with a 1-6 record, the Road Warriors have a slim chance of advancing to the next round. Yet Guiao remains optimistic about the future of his squad with Cruz in the fold.

"I'm really happy for Jericho because he's getting his confidence, he's getting his groove, and we're trying to accelerate that as much as we can," he said. Guiao looks forward to seeing Cruz run the show together with NLEX's sidelined guards, Kiefer Ravena and Kevin Alas. Ravena is set to return to practice next week, two months before the lifting of his 18-month FIBA ban on August 24. Alas, on the other hand, may need three more months to recover from a second ACL injury.

"I'm really excited to see him with Kevin and Kiefer, but the good thing also for Jericho is he's able to bring out the best in our other players," said Guiao. "Jericho knows exactly what our ball screen offense is. That's why he's able to facilitate, not just score for us. He's also tenacious on defense so he brings a lot to us on both ends."

Cruz hopes to help the Road Warriors get back on track after a disastrous start to the conference.

"I'm just doing my job, trying to be a creator for our team because the usual creators are not around, which [are] Kevin and Kiefer," he said. "I'm just trying to fill that role. Luckily, all the players got their touches and everybody was involved. When everybody touches the ball, everybody's happy."