This appears on philstar.com
Former Adamson Falcons’ Ken Bono and Jericho Cruz are starring in their teams’ PBA campaigns.
by rick olivares
During the Meralco Bolts-Rain or Shine clash last Wednesday, San Miguel head coach Leo Austria was in the stands at the Smart Araneta Coliseum to not only scout but also to watch some of his former players at Adamson University — Ken Bono of the former and Jericho Cruz of the latter squad.
Bono, the 2006 UAAP Most Valuable Player when he led the Falcons to the semifinals for the first time in team history came into the match in the second quarter and scored two buckets in the midst of a 51-point bomb dropped by Meralco in 13 minutes (RoS scored 31 in that span). Bono finished with nine points and one board in 11 quality minutes while Onuaku took a breather.
Cruz himself came alive in the fourth period where he scored 11-points as the Elasto Painters came close to overhauling a 26-point deficit only to fall short at the end. Cruz, the sophomore swingman, scored a total of 15 points, second best on his team, and mostly on daredevil drives inside despite the presence of Meralco’s 6’9” reinforcement, Arinze Onuaku.
Austria said that he was proud of his former players. “Ken is one of the smartest players around,” said the coach who now has three PBA titles to his name. “He just needs a break.”
“As for Jericho, the boy has always played a lot of confidence. I think that is also due to his martial arts training.
Cruz grew up in the Northern Marianas Islands, an American protectorate. “I was in high school when I started training in Mixed Martial Arts,” recounted Cruz. "I got into Jiu Jitsu and had a little stand up game. I was with a team called, Marianas Elite. I never got in the cage though because that was more for my training.”
“Ever since I was a kid, I was always passionate. I dont care if I break my bones or what I am going to do what I am supposed to do. People misinterpret the way I act inside the court. I think it is more of how our team is in general — we are a tough team."
The 25-year old feels lucky that he is given playing time by Yeng Guiao. “I am very honored and at the same time pressured because not all players are given that trust. That is why I keep working hard to prove that I belong in coach’s rotation. When I had my breakout game against Alaska, it was in my rookie year and my first Best Player of the Game. That is when I think I earned Coach Yeng’s trust."
Bono on the other hand has bounced around the league serving with six teams since he was drafted sixth overall in 2007 by Alaska. He was a reserve player for B-Meg/San Mig Coffee’s title winning teams but left to join Meralco in hopes of getting more playing time. It didn’t happen right away as he was used mainly as a practice player by Norman Black before he was penciled in for the team’s Commissioner’s Cup roster.
He started Meralco’s conference debut against Star Hotshots and has played in all three wins for the Bolts thus far with the RoS win his most productive since his return to active duty. “I feel like a rookie all over again,” said the 6’5” forward/center following the win over RoS. “Hindi naman ako tumigil sa pagpakundisyon kahit ilang taon akong practice player.”
During a crucial stretch in the fourth period, Black rested a visibly tired Onuaku, amidst a run by the Elasto Painters. It was a huge gamble that paid off. Bono beat JR Quinahan to an offensive board for a putback. And-one.
It was a massive shot. The Bolts, with some late points from Jared Dillinger and Onuaku, held off RoS.
"Nung pagod na ang import namin sinabihan ako na bigyan ng chance siya magpahinga at the same time mag-contribute sa makakaya ko. So yun naman ang ginawa ko,” said Bono. "Umaasa naman ako magtuloy tuloy. Lagi lang handa. Napagdaanan ko na din kasi yung madaming taon na di makasama sa lineup. Pero ayaw ko naman sumuko. Work hard lang lagi at pilitin to stay positive kung anumang mangyari kasi ganyan naman pag mahal mo trabaho mo.”
Summed up Leo Austria, “Those are my boys!"