NLEX Road Warriors guard Jericho Cruz almost became a mixed martial arts fighter if not for his mother’s determined objection to the violent sport. His mother Arlene put her foot down and told Cruz to pursue another sport after he broke his nose during a sparring session.
“Dati favorite sport ko talaga MMA. Nasa training ako noon. Nasira ang ilong ko sa sparring. Nabali ang ilong ko. Hanggang ngayon, bali pa ito. Hindi pa ito naaayos,” said Cruz during a recent online interview on YouTube.
“Pag-uwi ko ng bahay, ayon nag-away kami ng mommy ko. Sabi niya, ‘Tigilan mo na yung ganoong sport. Maghanap ka na lang ng ibang sport.’ Ayun. Doon ko nahiligan ang paglalaro ng basketball. Siguro mga first year, second year high school.”
MMA was his first sport though with Cruz seriously trying to pursue the combat sport until his mother made him stop during his high school days.
“Elementary pa lang ako, nag te-training na ako. Umangat na ako. Then first year high school. Second year high school. I’m not sure kung second year o third year. Parang ganoon (ang nangyari),” said Cruz.
At the insistence of his mother Cruz pursued another sport. He turned to basketball as his high school sport in Saipan and became so good that he helped the national basketball team finish sixth in the 2008 Fiba Oceania Youth Tournament.
He not only led his team to a sixth-place finish in the Fiba tourney he was also voted as one of the tournament's Top 5 players.
Realizing he could pursue a professional basketball career he tried his luck in the Philippines and initially played for Rizal Technological University. He was spotted by Adamson University coach Leo Austria while playing in a tournament in Bacolod.
He joined the Falcons and excelled in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines enough to be drafted ninth overall during the 2014 Philippine Basketball Association Draft by the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.
He was traded to the TNT KaTropa in 2018 but reunited with coach Yeng Guiao at NLEX in 2019.
Like the everyone else Cruz is staying at home doing his share in the effort to stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. The self-imposed quarantine has been a bitter-sweet experience according to Cruz.
“Masaya rin kasi you get to spend time with your family. Kung baga, whole day you spend the time with them. At the same time sad din kasi wala tayo sa trabaho natin,” said Cruz.
“Nakaka miss din yung maglaro ng basketball. Mag work out sa labas. See other friends. Other family members, ganoon. Pero sa overall wala naman tayo magagawa kaya happy na lang tayo na kasama natin ang family natin. Pero sobrang na mi miss kong maglaro.”