THE glory days of San Sebastian appears to be over after the departure of the 'Pinatubo Trio' of Calvin Abueva, Ian Sangalang and Ronald Pascual, but there's hope on the horizon for Topex Robinson's revamped Stags.
His name? Jaymark Perez.
The 19-year-old incoming San Sebastian freshman not only inherited Abueva's No. 7 jersey number, but he also has the moves and boundless energy on court of the former King Stag.
Perez also makes no effort to hide the fact that he looks up to 'The Beast' as his role model.
"Idol ko talaga si Calvin kaya kinuha ko jersey (number) niya, nakalaro ko na siya dati sa ligang labas," he said. "Nakaka-pressure pero kaya naman eh. Maglalaro lang ako at para sa team ang gagawin ko, walang para sa akin."
Comparisons therefore are inevitable as Perez attempts to pump life into the San Sebastian basketball program a year after the departure of Abueva, who led the Stags to a championship and last season distinguished himself as the first player to lead a major league in points, rebounds, and assists.
"Medyo nakaka-pressure din kasi Calvin Abueva siya, 'The Beast' siya," Perez added. "Pero work hard lang then pakikisama sa team para mawala ang pressure."
No wonder Rolly Manlapaz, the veteran coliseum barker who christened Abueva as 'The Beast,' has given Perez the moniker 'The New Beast' during the game against the Blue Eagles.
Perez, though, isn't too comfortable, both with the moniker and the attention he has been getting.
"'The New Beast?' Wala pa naman akong napapatunayankaya stay muna ako as sarili ko," he said. "Kaya magwo-work hard ako para masundan ang yapak ni Calvin."
Perez not only looks, moves, and sounds like Abueva, but the young shooting guard's life story is also eerily similar to his role model.
Born in Hong Kong to a Filipina overseas worker and a Nigerian national, Perez, like Abueva, has yet to meet his father. Mother and son later came home to the Philippines, where he was raised with the help of his grandparents in Bautista, Pangasinan.
And like Abueva, he sees basketball as his family's ticket out of poverty.
"Sana (maka-angat din ako) para makaahon sa kahirapan," he said.
Although they may have the same life story, the San Sebastian rising star said he prefers to carve his own niche.
Perez, though, admits things won't be easy for the Stags a year after the departure of Abueva and Co. as well as the falling-out between the school and former patron Dennis Pineda that saw the team lose most of its upcoming talent except Perez who opted to stay put.
"Sa team namin parang mahihirapan kami kasi bagong team nga, mahihirapan kami maka-angat kasi puro bago ang players at coaching staff. Pero susubukan namin maka-angat," he said.
"Hindi ko masasabi na madadala ko ang team sa championship pero sa pagtutulungan namin ng team baka siguro makarating kami doon," he said.