SEEING CJ Perez thrive at Lyceum has given Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin mixed emotions after he missed out on the chance at coaching one of the top players in college basketball today.
“He’s (LPU coach Topex Robinson) lucky that he’s got him instead of us,” said Baldwin.
Baldwin, however, is happy his former ward has taken his game to new heights as he led the Pirates to the NCAA championship series for the first time following a perfect 18-0 run in the eliminations.
Perez was once seen as heir apparent to Kiefer Ravena after the Pangasinan native transferred to Ateneo in 2015 following his stint with San Sebastian in the NCAA.
Academic problems, however, prevented Perez from playing for the Blue Eagles the following year upon the entry of Baldwin in the program, forcing him to move elsewhere.
In his first year with the Pirates, Perez averaged 19.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.9 steals and led them to a perfect elimination round. Lyceum also beat defending champion San Beda twice, including a pulsating 107-105 double overtime victory on the 18th and final game of the regular season.
Baldwin considers Perez’s move to the Pirates as a huge loss to the Blue Eagles.
“He’s one of the guys that I would really love to have made it to Ateneo. We lost him and I thought that was a big loss for us at the same time, and he’s proving how big a loss that was,” said Baldwin.
Observers see the move of Perez to Lyceum as beneficial for the cager, especially with the Pirates’ run-and-gun system fitting his skill set more than the deliberate, disciplined basketball that Baldwin is known for.
Baldwin, however, said Robinson has also instilled discipline in the team, which has been the heart of the change within the Pirates.
“He’s playing with the kind of discipline that coach Topex wants to. He really makes that team play to another level but they all do their jobs. All those players are 100 percent committed to the coach and the philosophy and that’s why they’re winning,” said Baldwin.
“He is just a tremendous talent.”