MANILA, Philippines – CJ Perez picked up where he left off from his stellar FIBA World Cup stint with a double-double outing as Columbian opened the PBA Governors' Cup with a rousing victory.
The top draft pick dazzled with 28 points, 13 rebounds, and 2 steals in a 117-110 win over Alaska – a performance reminiscent of his exploits for Gilas Pilipinas in the global hoops showdown.
Despite being a rookie, Perez shone for the national team and was one of the few bright spots in its winless campaign with averages of 12.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.6 assists.
"He's very smart and he's not overeager now," said coach Johnedel Cardel in a mix of Filipino and English when asked what changed with Perez after the World Cup.
"Sometimes he's overeager because he wants to carry the team. I told him to just be confident. He needs to be like that because he's the leader of the team right now and we need him."
Perez, though, said that new import Khapri Alston just made the job easier for him and his teammates as the Dyip notched only their second win in the last 26 games in the season-ending conference.
Alston frolicked with 38 points, 22 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals.
"It's not easy," Perez said when asked if playing became easier after going up against players of international caliber. "They focused on our import because he's making damage inside."
"There were times when I was driving towards the basket and their focus was still on our import. It's a big thing that he played like that."
Columbian will try to win back-to-back games in the Governors' Cup for the first time since 2016 as it tangles with Rain or Shine at the Araneta Coliseum on Sunday, September 22. – Rappler.com
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.