IT was entertaining to see CJ Perez and Robert Bolick team up in the backcourt for Gilas Pilipinas in the 2019 Fiba World Cup.
Finally joining forces, the longtime college rivals showed what could have been in college, when they almost became teammates — twice.
The two bared the story on The Prospects Pod on Friday as they reminisced on their collegiate careers.
"Hindi niyo alam ito, pero unang dating ko sa La Salle, nandoon kaming dalawa ni CJ. Sabay kami at doon kami unang nagkita," shared Bolick.
Then a scrawny high school kid from Ormoc, Bolick tried his luck and practiced with the Green Archers and had his first encounter with Perez back in 2011.
"Pagpasok ko, unang una kong nakita si Arnold Van Opstal na ang laki ng katawan tapos ang tangkad. Sabi ko, 'Hala, ayaw ko na mag try out. Hindi ko yata kaya ito.' Tapos si Jeron (Teng), out of high school din yata siya noon galing Xavier. Tapos si CJ, doon ko rin nakita," he said.
"Naglaro kami, doon ko unang nakita tapos si CJ at sabi ko, 'Ah, magaling na talaga ito.' Una ko palang siya na nakita noon kahit bata pa kami."
Way too young back then, Bolick was soon enrolled in La Salle Greenhills where he wrapped up his high school career.
For his part, Perez was a wide-eyed standout from Bautista, Pangasinan who La Salle actively pursued.
"Pinuntahan ako ng La Salle doon sa Pangasinan. Sabi nung school ko, mag-try out ako, punta ako doon kahit one week lang, at hinanap ako doon sa amin. Pagpunta ko ng one week, hindi na ako pinapauwi hanggang umabot na ako ng four months na mag-isa lang ako doon," he said.
The two took the De La Salle college admission test a year later, both already looking forward to be future Green Archers.
"Sabay pa nga kami nag-entrance exam nito eh," recounted Bolick.
The team-up, however, did not materialize as Perez encountered problems when it came to his papers.
"Nung entrance exam na, ayaw na ng (La Salle) kasi yung papers ko sa Pangasinan, nakita nila kasi isang sem ako hindi pumasok at maraming dropped," he shared with a laugh. "Ayaw tanggapin ng school, so umuwi ako agad at pumunta ako ng Baste."
Bolick added: "Remember ko talaga, galit na galit talaga si boss Danding (Cojuangco) noon na hindi nakuha si CJ. Yun yung di nawala sa isip ko. Galit na galit talaga nung pinakawalan siya at pumunta siya sa San Sebastian."
It wasn't long, though, before their paths would cross anew.
Raring to prove himself, Bolick left La Salle in 2014 and sought for greener pastures.
Perez, meanwhile, transferred to Ateneo in the same year.
Kiefer Ravena, then the face of the Blue Eagles, almost made the partnership a reality as he tried to woo Bolick to Katipunan.
"Sinusundo ko pa yan," admitted Ravena, who is one of the hosts of the podcast. "Nagshu-shooting, weights na kami ng alas-2, tapos one-on-one kasama yung ibang mga rookies."
And just like they did at Taft, Bolick and Perez had a chance to work out together in Ateneo.
"Grabe takbuhan eh. Magkalaban pa nga kami ni CJ sa Team B," said Bolick.
Unfortunately, those plans also didn't work out as Bolick found his way to San Beda.
Perez' stay in Ateneo also proved shortlived as academic issues led to his departure and back in the arms of coach Topex Robinson in Lyceum.
It wasn't long before they established themselves as the cornerstones of their respective teams, meeting in the NCAA Finals twice, with Bolick's Red Lions getting the better of Perez' Pirates.
Their careers continued to intertwine in the professional level, with Perez being picked first by Columbian in the 2018 PBA Draft and Bolick being taken third by NorthPort shortly after as they were eventually picked as late callups for the national team.