NO one is more eager to get the new NCAA season started than Lyceum cager CJ Perez.
After all, Perez waited two college seasons and about three years on the sidelines before he makes his way back in action in major league play when he suits up for the Pirates in Season 93 of the NCAA this June.
“Sobrang excited ako kasi matagal akong nawala talaga,” the 23-year-old Perez told SPIN.ph. “Hinintay ko ‘to.”
After suiting up for two seasons with San Sebastian, the last one in 2014, Perez moved to Ateneo where he was seen as the player who will take over the Blue Eagles once Kiefer Ravena graduates.
But just months before the start of his UAAP debut with the Blue Eagles in Season 79, Perez hit a stumbling block as he was dropped by the team due to academic issues.
After Ateneo, Perez found a new home once again in Lyceum, where he took another year of residency before becoming eligible for the Pirates this coming season.
Perez is not out to prove anything when he gets back on the court as he’s just satisfied to compete against top college stars in the NCAA.
“Hindi naman sa nawala, hindi na ako masyadong nakilala kasi tagal kong nawala. Wala naman akong gustong patunayan. Gusto ko lang makuha ‘yung experience na makapaglaro,” said Perez.
But while on residency, Perez has been showing that he belongs to the big leagues, leading the Pirates to two finals appearances in the Milcu Got Skills offseason conferences, including a victory against Jose Rizal University in the Hard To Guard tourney.
Perez ended up as the MVP of the competition.
“One of the reasons that we are in this situation is because of CJ,” Lyceum coach Topex Robinson admitted.
Perez, however, recognizes that for the Pirates to be successful in the NCAA, he needs to mesh well with his teammates.
“Ang iniimprove ko lang ay ‘yung i-involve ko ‘yung teammates ko. Hindi ko alam kung malakas kami pero ‘yung process talaga kami. Step-by-step, ginagandahan lang namin ang laro namin,” said Perez.
Robinson recognizes Perez’s talent and efforts to involve other teammates but the Pirates coach added that their hopes of making the Final Four and beyond rest not only on one player.
“CJ knows he’s good but nobody in this team thinks that they are better than their teammates. So that’s what I preach to them. You could boast about your skills but you have to remember that you are not greater than your teammate. There is a lot of humility with this team that hindi kaya ng mag-isa,” he said.
“CJ is CJ. He will take a lot of shots. He is going to win games for us, and he is going to lose games for us. Alam ng lahat ang responsibilities nila sa team,” Robinson added.