June 25, 2024

Dream Chasers: Ginebra rising rookie Ralph Cu keeps believing in himself

Dream Chasers: Ginebra rising rookie Ralph Cu keeps believing in himself
Ralph Cu is slowly becoming a reliable cog for Ginebra. (Art by Mitzi Solano; Photos courtesy of the PBA)

Ginebra rookie Ralph Cu is just one game away from fulfilling one of his goals in the PBA.

Cu earlier bared in an exclusive interview with One Sports that he aims to experience playing in the titular round, and eventually hoist the trophy.

He could achieve one of those if Ginebra successfully conquers playoff rival Meralco in the winner-take-all Game 7 of their semifinal clash in the Philippine Cup on Friday, May 31.

"Goals ko, gusto kong mag-champion. Hopefully, makaabot kami. Last conference, hanggang semis lang kami, so gusto kong ma-experience, hopefully, makalaro sa championship and manalo din," Cu said in a fun chat with One Sports during the eliminations.

[ALSO READ: PBA: Reliving the Ginebra-Meralco rivalry, playoff edition]

But while the 27-year-old Cu is slowly nearing his targets in just his first year in the pros, his path has not always been easy for him.

Cu, whose father Louie played for the University of Santo Tomas Glowing Goldies in the UAAP, did not turn heads during his high school and college days. Cu suited up for the De La Salle Green Archers in the collegiate ranks in 2022, where he played sparingly. While he was able to bring a silver medal to the Taft-based squad in the 3x3 event in the same season, he was cut the following year from the team.

But Cu just kept believing in himself  even if nobody else does  an adage that he has lived by and has made him barge into the PBA. First, in the 3x3, then in the On Tour series, both with Ginebra, before being picked by the crowd darling in the second round for 23rd overall of last year's draft.

"Continue believing in yourself even if others don't," Cu said of his motto.

"Simula noong college ako – high school, actually  wala akong recruits. Then team B lang ako noong college. 'Yun lang, just continue to believe in myself. Hard work lang. Thankfully, nakarating rin ako ng dream ko sa PBA," added Cu, who dreamt of becoming a professional basketball player only when he made it to La Salle's Team A.

Ginebra's Ralph Cu tries to get past Mark Barroca of Magnolia. (Art by Mitzi Solano; Photo courtesy of the PBA)

[WATCH: PBA Player of the Game Highlights: Ralph Cu has breakout game for Ginebra]

Cu cites his dad as his basketball influence, after having been exposed to the sport through his playing days.

"My dad was a former basketball player in UST, eh. So ever since I was a kid, medyo [exposed] na ako sa basketball, surrounded na ako [ng] basketball atmosphere. Kasi lagi kaming nanonood and lagi rin siyang naglalaro noong time na bata pa kami," said Cu.

His father eventually dabbled in business, and it is one career that Cu also sees himself in had he not been a basketball player at present or even as a potential option in the future.

"Siguro, I would be involved in our family business. 'Yung dad ko nasa forwarding industry. It's related to shipping, so siguro nandoon ako if hindi ako basketball player. Siguro eventually, after playing, siguro doon ako," said Cu.

But for now, the PBA dream lives on.

Cu gave a glimpse of his routines as a Gin King. His pre-game ritual? Prayer.

"Pray lang sa loob ng dugout," said Cu.

His free time is still spent with basketball – he does extra work in the gym. But he also does not forget to give time to his family and friends, his girlfriend and fellow ex-La Salle athlete Jolina Dela Cruz included.

"Usually, I do extra work, extra weights. 'Yun din, spend time with family and friends," said Cu.

Cu said that when he is not on the court, he could be seen with Dela Cruz, his girlfriend of four years. They enjoy sharing meals together, either by dining out, ordering instead, or cooking while watching television.

"Usually, eating out. Pero dahil sa schedule namin pareho, usually, we just order food or we cook while watching TV, ganiyan, movies," said Cu, adding that he and Dela Cruz loves to eat chicken wings and steak.


Former La Salle Lady Spiker and current Farm Fresh Foxy Jolina Dela Cruz expresses her support for boyfriend Ralph Cu during Game Two of Ginebra and Meralco's semifinal encounter last May 19. (Art by Mitzi Solano; Photos by RM Chua) 

He has no say as to what they would watch, however, as he allows Dela Cruz to choose.

"Actually, siya. Siya 'yung namimili. Iba-iba 'yung pinipili niya. Ako, kung ano lang ang gusto niya, 'yun na rin ang papanoorin ko," said Cu.

During Game Two of Ginebra's semifinal series with Meralco last May 19, Dela Cruz told One Sports that it was easy to support Cu due to his humble beginnings.

"For me, super dali kasi si Ralph super hardworking niya. And ang sarap niyang suportahan kasi lahat ng ginagawa niya ngayon, galing siya sa baba tapos paangat siya nang paangat," said Dela Cruz.

The former La Salle volleyball star shared her message for Cu.

"Kita ko recently na gumaganda nang gumaganda din talaga 'yung performance niya. Siguro, for me, message ko sa kanya, hindi lang siya mag-stop sa pagiging masipag kasi doon siya nagsimula, eh. So, dapat, continue niya lang," said Dela Cruz.

[ALSO READ: Dream Chasers: San Miguel rookie Kyt Jimenez builds kids' lives as he pursues his PBA goals]

DID YOU KNOW?

- Ralph Cu lists Coach Carter as his favorite movie.
- He does not listen to music much prior to matches.
- He was called to be a practice player for Gilas in the training camp for the first window of the FIBA 2025 Asia Cup qualifiers last February: "Maganda ang experience namin nila Dondon (Gumaru) na maging practice player. So, if ever sa future, tatawagin kami para mag-practice player ulit, if available naman kami, then OK naman."
- His response when asked about his celebrity crush? "Pass!"

(With reports from Jan Ballesteros and Gillian Trinidad)