The CJ Perez who played on Tuesday at the Filoil Flying V Centre is the very same CJ Perez who last played in the NCAA in 2014 – according to CJ Perez himself.
Indeed, it was vintage “Baby Beast” who stuffed the stat sheet with 22 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, and two steals in Lyceum of the Philippines University’s convincing victory versus fellow playoff-hopeful Jose Rizal University.
And it was vintage CJ Perez up to the errors. As head coach Topex Robinson kidded, “Same turnover(s) pa rin.”
Proving to be a good sport, LPU’s new main man was quick to acknowledge that he still has much to do better with. “Hindi ko in-expect na maganda lalaruin ko kanina. Kaso nga lang, ang dami ko nga ring turnovers,” he told reporters following his mentor’s joshing.
However, Perez said that perhaps there’s good reason for his game-high seven turnovers. As he put it, “Pagpasok ko pa lang kasi, sobrang excited na ako maglaro. Kaya ayun, nadala ng gigil at yung turnovers, medyo tumaas nang tumaas.”
Indeed, it’s understandable for the 23-year-old to get carried away as it has been three years since he last showed off his wares in the NCAA.
Perez played for San Sebastian College-Recoletos for two seasons before transferring and spending 2015 to 2016 in Ateneo de Manila University.
With his time in Katipunan not working out, the do-it-all swingman reunited with mentor Topex Robinson for the Pirates.
And three years since he was seen as one of the league’s brightest stars, Perez is only ready to reclaim his place among the best of the best in the NCAA. “Siguro, magandang welcome back na lang ito sa akin. Masaya maglaro sa NCAA at excited pa akong maglaro para sa mga next game namin,” he said.
He then continued, “Ang sarap talaga maglaro sa NCAA.”
Don’t think for a second, however, that LPU is the Pangasinan native’s team. “Same CJ Perez pa rin ako, pero yung team talaga yung secret kaya nanalo kami. Maganda yung tinatakbo ng team namin kasi yung samahan namin, hindi naman sa close kami lahat, pero focused kaming lahat so yun yung nagdidikit sa amin,” he shared.
And that togetherness, and not the “The Baby Beast” alone, will propel the Pirates onto a long-awaited and much-wanted playoff berth. “Sobrang laki ng expectations nila sa akin and kinakabahan ako dahil dun, pero yung buong team naman ang nagdadala sa amin. Kung magiging consistent kami, malayo ang mararating namin,” he said.
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