From one Mark to another: Nonoy heeds Cruz’s advice to boost UST
MANILA, Philippines—University of Santo Tomas head coach Aldin Ayo is slowly replicating what he’s done four years ago.
Ayo was the architect of Letran’s 2015 title conquest in the NCAA and the blueprint of that championship run is now being integrated into the Growling Tigers’ ongoing campaign in the UAAP Season 82 men’s basketball Final Four.
Mark Cruz, the Finals MVP of the Knights’ title series against San Beda, has taken his namesake Mark Nonoy under his wing and the younger Mark has shown the early results of those training sessions.
Nonoy had 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting, including 2-of-4 from three, four rebounds, four assists, and two steals helping the Growling Tigers feast on University of the Philippines, 89-69, in their semifinals clash.
“He told me to always believe in coach, and when I’m open I just shoot it because I’m given the license to go for it,” said Nonoy in Filipino Sunday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“Our sessions helped because he’s been in this similar situation before. I accepted his advice because I know it’ll help me,” added Nonoy.
Cruz is two inches shorter than the 5-foot-8 Nonoy but the two didn’t let their small stature be a hindrance for them in the sport with the diminutive Knight becoming a legend in Letran while the Growling Tiger is just getting started by winning this season’s Rookie of the Year plum.
Nonoy, who ran circles around UP’s defense, said what impresses him most about Cruz is his heart.
“I saw him on TV before when he was still in Letran and it wasn’t really the height and playing that well that impressed me but the heart,” said Nonoy, 19. “When I saw him I knew that he has a big fighting spirit.”