COLUMBIAN coach Johnedel Cardel has seen a big leap in CJ Perez’s game after he played for Gilas Pilipinas in the Fiba Basketball World Cup.
Cardel said the gains from playing against world-class competition at the China showpiece was evident after Perez scored 28 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the Dyip’s 117-110 win over Alaska.
“He is very smart,” said Cardel. “Hindi na siya nangigigil ngayon. Sometimes, nangigigil siya because he wants to carry the team. ‘Yun ang sinasabi ko sa kanya. Be confident. He is leader of the team right now. Kailangan ko siya.”
But Perez played down his impressive numbers, saying he was able to get good shots due to team effort as well as the presence of their import Khapri Alston, who had 38 points and 22 rebounds for the Dyip.
“Sa effort lang din ng mga teammates ko kasi ‘yung spacing namin gumanda,” said Perez. “‘Yung import namin, talagang doon sila naka-focus. Minsan ako ‘yung duma-drive pero naka-focus sila sa import. Malaking bagay na ganun ang nilaro ng import namin ngayon.”
Despite getting a taste of World Cup competition, Perez said he doesn’t feel like the game became easier for him upon his return to the PBA.
“Hindi naman madali. Uulitin ko, nag-focus sila sa import namin kasi siya na ‘yung pumapatay sa loob eh, kaya ganun,” said the former Lyceum star.
With the victory, the Dyip were able to match their entire win total in last year’s Governors’ Cup, and Perez hopes the team can sustain the momentum in a game against Rain or Shine on Sunday.
“Sana magtuloy-tuloy na. Unang laro pa lang ito. Marami pang laro. Alam naman natin ‘yung PBA kung paano maghanda ‘yung mga team. Talagang solid sila mag-scout. Kailangan maghanda kami sa next practice namin,” said Perez.