Alaska’s senior citizens Tony dela Cruz and Dondon Hontiveros know that they are not spring chickens anymore. But they see to it that in the limited time they have, they still contribute in their bid to help the Aces end their string of runner-up finishes in the last 1 and a half years.
Dela Cruz, 37, credited Alaska coach Alex Compton for reminding them that they won’t be basketball players forever, a fact that made them value their professional careers all the more.
“Coach Alex always makes it a point to tell to younger players that you don’t have much time and you have a shelf life as a basketball player, so all 3 of us (with Hontiveros and Eric Menk) understand like this opportunity won’t be around much longer,” Dela Cruz told reporterd, moments after Alaska clobbered Tropang TNT, 99-81, to upend the latter’s Oppo-PBA Commissioner’s Cup reign on Friday.
The veteran trio combined for 26 big points for the Aces that more than made up for the absence of injured key players Vic Manuel and JV Casio.
Dela Cruz, who over the past 4 years, have seen his playing minutes dwindle due to the arrival of younger players in the team, said he tries to lead the Aces by example.
“I just want to take advantage and come out there strong. If I’ll be given 2 minutes, I’ll give the best 2 minutes I’ve got,” explained the Fil-Am who was a direct-hire of Shell in 1999.
“If I’m gonna be out there for 12 minutes, I’ll die on the floor and hopefully, that would inspire my other teammates,” he added.
On the other hand, Hontiveros said not every PBA player gets the chance to play consistently in the semifinals, a reason why they intend to give their all as they clash with the Meralco Bolts in the Final Four starting next Monday.
“Konti na lang ang chance namin (as the seniors in the team) at di namin alam ano mangyayari next year, pero binigyan kami ng chance uli na makalaro sa semis,” said the 38-year-old Cebuano hotshot.
“Alam namin mahirap itong Meralco, pero nakikita namin, meron naman kaming panlaban eh kahit wala si Vic at wala si JV and other guys are really stepping up gaya nila Ping (Eximiniano) saka si Tony. Kaya we’re confident sa semis,” he added.
With Manuel out for next 2 weeks due to a right calf injury, Dela Cruz expects to get a bump on his playing time.
“Sayang if you’re not ready for your chance. Obviously, it would be great to have JV (Casio, knee injury) and Vic back, but it’s basketball, that’s life, life goes on. We just have to adjust,” explained dela Cruz. – By Richard Dy
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