Former CNMI National Team member and now collegiate league standout Jericho Cruz spent his short vacation here teaching youth players basketball skills.
Cruz, who plays for the Adamson University in the prestigious University Athletic Association of the Philippines, had his last workout with a pool of U19 players yesterday at the NMC Gymnasium. He started joining the practice sessions coaches Edsel Mendoza and Ed Manalili have been conducting since arriving on Saipan last week.
“I see myself in these youth players. I remember going to NMC Gym three times a week to train and through the guidance of my coaches and constant practice, I am able to develop my skills and earn a chance to play collegiate ball,” Cruz said.
The Adamson Falcons shooting guard joined the scrimmages of the pool, made up of the players who were selected to the CNMI U17, U15, and U19 teams that played in the MBT, and even gave one-on-one session with some of the players. Cruz showed Kobee Mendoza his explosive crossover moves and the former went on to wow the over 20 players with his one-handed slam.
“We are fortunate to learn from such a good player like Jericho. He shared with us individual drills and took part in running our plays,” Mendoza said.
“We're learning more from him. He has a good experience playing organized and competitive basketball in the Philippines,” Ankie Manalili added.
Ed Manalili hopes that Jericho will inspire the pool to play better and improve its game.
“We want Jericho to motivate our players. He started young and he is not that good when he first played here. But through hard work and discipline, he became a good player and earned a scholarship,” the older Manalili said.
“We would like to thank Jericho for joining our scrimmages. He is an inspiration to our young players. They look up to him,” Edsel Mendoza said.
Cruz will be leaving Saipan tomorrow and vows to continue sharing his skills with aspiring players. He also wishes more CNMI players will be able to play collegiate basketball.
“We have a lot of talent. Our players just need more training and opportunity to compete. If these youth players listen to their coaches and continue working hard, I am sure they will go places, too,” said Cruz.
Cruz had an explosive debut in the UAAP this season, as he ended up one of the Top 3 scorers for the Falcons. He would have been a strong candidate for the Rookie of the Year honors had he had not been a transferee from Rizal Technological University. As per UAAP rules, only players who graduated from high school and moved up to a college/university are eligible for the prestigious plum.
Cruz will resume training with the Falcons when he returns to the Philippines and will compete in the University Games to be held later this month in the southern part of the country.