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PBA: Big shoes to fill

Rain or Shine guards Jericho Cruz and Maverick Ahanmisi said filling the void created by the departure of ace guard Paul Lee requires lot of sacrifices and hard work.

But the two said they are ready to face the challenge head on.

With Lee now with Star, Cruz and Ahanmisi will most likely share the responsibility left by Lee in the team.

“Of course we all know Paul Lee, the things he can do for the team, and it’s hard taking his place,” said the 6-foot Cruz after the team’s practice session yesterday at the North East Green Hills gym in San Juan City.

“He can make an impact right away when he enters the court. But it’s not just on offense – he’s also one of the team leaders. So we’ll miss that, in a way we’ll have to step up,” added Cruz.

Lee played four seasons with RoS, winning two championships – winning Finals MVP honors bestowed by the PBA Press Corps in the last Commissioner’s Cup when the Elasto Painters defeated the Alaska Aces.

Cruz and Ahanmisi also played big in the title run of RoS, with Cruz averaging a team-high of more than 20 points per game while Ahanmisi – the team’s No. 2 pick overall in last year’s Rookie Draft – was a key contributor on the guard-heavy rotation of then coach Yeng Guiao.

Under the tutelage of Guiao, both players had impressive 2016 campaigns, as Ahanmisi averaged 8.65 points, 3.87 rebounds and 2.69 assists in his rookie season, while Cruz had 12.49 points, 3.19 rebounds and 2.04 assists.

The two were rewarded after the season as Cruz bagged both the Most Improved plum given by the PBA during the Leo’s Awards, and then took the Mr. Quality Minutes trophy handed by the PBA Press Corps during last Saturday’s PBAPC Annual Awards night.

“We owe it to coach Yeng, he helped us improve our game,” said Ahanmisi, who joined Scottie Thompson of Ginebra, Art dela Cruz of Blackwater, Troy Rosario of TNT KaTropa and Chris Newsome of Meralco in the PBA Press Corps All-Rookie Team.