FOR most of their collegiate careers, Mark Cruz and Rey Nambatac played alongside each other in the NCAA, brothers in arms of the Letran Knights order.
But unless fate intervenes, these two young cagers might find themselves crossing swords come the 2017 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup Finals.
Both Cruz and Nambatac’s D-League teams are a win away from clinching spots to the championship, making the possibility of a head-on clash more likely than remote.
Cruz, who starts as point guard for Tanduay Rhum, will battle the Cignal Hawkeyes in a do-or-die semis, while Nambatac’s Racal Tilemasters face the same odds against highly-regarded CaféFrance.
If both their teams prevail, the two will face in a coveted title match for the first time in their careers, a scenario hugely different from their college stint with the Knights.
Fans will be in for a treat as both players are renowned offensive machines who built their reputations with an undersized Letran squad.
Both emerged as major factors for the Knights in their 2015 NCAA title conquest.
Cruz filled in the role of a nifty point guard, who, at 5-foot-6, tallied huge numbers across the board. Nambatac, on the other hand, was also a vital contributor from the wing position. A deadly three-point shooter, Nambatac is considered an all-around player and is the team’s current leader in offense.
Both are gifted scorers and have drawn accolades all around the NCAA. They even have their own monikers – Ant-Man (Cruz) and Stingrey (Nambatac) – as a result of their exceptional performances.
They played together for three years until Cruz applied for the PBA draft two years ago.
This time, they could play again for the title albeit from opposite benches and with different jerseys. The hour of reckoning is today at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig, with both Knights locked in a duel for the right to seek the crown.
Camelot watches. (By RAFAEL MANZANO/Sports Editor The Lance, Colegio de San Juan de Letran)