Dela Cruz shines in MVP-worthy performance before proud dad
San Beda Red Lion Art Dela Cruz, NCAA 89 Finals MVP, talks about how his dad and namesake has influenced his game. He thanks his coach, Boyet Fernandez, for the trust given to him. Video by INQUIRER.net’s Ryan Leagogo
MANILA, Philippines — Under the prying eyes of his biggest supporter and critic, his father whose name he also takes, Art Dela Cruz played the best game of his life.
Dela Cruz lived up to the expectations of his father, who was watching for the first time in the finals, and thousands of those clad in red at the Mall of Asia Arena Saturday as he spearheaded San Beda to a fourth straight crown.
The sweet shooting forward spun around for a tough jumper, after he knocked down an equally-challenging one hander, and gave the Red Lions a crucial 58-56 lead with a minute to play.
And his father, who was sitting behind the ring, was no doubt beaming with pride.
“I actually didn’t want to look at him,” Dela Cruz said in Filipino with a laugh.
“It’s his first time to watch in the championship. I usually don’t want him to watch because I feel pressured,” Dela Cruz admitted. “When he’s there, every move I always think if I’m doing it right.”
It wasn’t surprising, though, as Dela Cruz is the only guy among his siblings.
But Dela Cruz left little room to be criticized as he put on a phenomenal showing in the finals, averaging 17 points and 12 rebounds — worthy of the series’ most valuable player award.
“He [my dad] always reminds me of the things I need to correct, and that helps me because I always want to improve, and he knows what I need to do because he has been here too.”
Dela Cruz showcased immense range — knocking down four triples in the 79-74 game two loss — which helped unclog the lanes all finals long for center Ola Adeogun to dominate.
“My dad told me to practice my shooting more since Letran was doubling Ola a lot. I got open and I just took the opportunity,” Dela Cruz said.
Dela Cruz, who used to play back up to Jake Pascual last year, said that he developed the tremendous confidence largely due to head coach Boyet Fernandez’s encouragement.
“I thank him for not losing trust in us even if we were making mistakes in the first half,” Dela Cruz said. “He just lets me shoot when I’m open.”
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