By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

HAD ONE of the more stellar rookie seasons in recent Philippine Basketball Association history last year, Columbian Dyip star CJ Perez looks to have more team success and to continue his improvement as he embarks on his second year in the league.

Took the PBA by storm last season where he led the league in scoring with an average of 20.8 points per contest, former National Collegiate Athletic Association most valuable player Perez was accordingly rewarded in the annual PBA awards at the weekend.

Mr. Perez, 26, was adjudged PBA rookie of the year at the Leo Awards on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

He was also part of the PBA First Team Mythical Selection, along with league MVP June Mar Fajardo (San Miguel), Christian Standhardinger and Sean Anthony (Northport) and Jayson Castro (TNT), and of the All-Defensive Team with Messrs. Fajardo and Anthony, Japeth Aguilar (Barangay Ginebra) and Chris Ross (San Miguel).

The Gilas Pilipinas member was a strong contender as well for the MVP plum which Mr. Fajardo won for the sixth straight time.

Following the first season he had, Mr. Perez shared that for his second year among his goals is to help Columbian to have more success, even reach the finals if possible, while also continuing to improve as a player.

“Playoffs is something I would like to experience here in the PBA, and maybe finals if possible. I’m excited for this season,” said Mr. Perez after the Leo Awards ceremonies.

In his first year with the team, Mr. Perez made the Dyip more competitive with his all-around play but the team just could not gain much headway.

Columbian finished last year’s Philippine Cup at 10th place with a 4-7 record, before sliding to 11th spot in the Commissioner’s Cup (3-8). It ended at 10th place in the season-ending Governors’ Cup (4-7).

This season, Mr. Perez leads a Columbian squad boosted by top rookie pick Roosevelt Adams.

With the kind of rookie season he had, Mr. Perez said he recognizes that a lot is expected of him in his second year, something he is determined to live up to.

“It’s a challenge for me after the rookie season I had to sustain what I have done. I will continue to work on my game. I’m sure I’m scouted by the other teams so I’ll make the adjustments. I’ll take it one game at a time,” he said.

Mr. Perez and the Dyip are set to make their season debut on March 13 against the Alaska Aces.

Meanwhile, as of this writing, the PBA Board is in a special meeting to discuss the league’s affairs amid the lingering concern over the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the country.

PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial said that in the meeting he would present to the board the various scenarios they face and options they have, including the possibility of holding the games behind closed doors and even suspending the holding games for a certain time frame.

The country is now under a State of Public Health Emergency after the number of people hit by the contagious COVID-19 increased considerably in the last few days.

If game schedule today pushes through, the TNT KaTropa will take on the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters at 4:30 p.m., with the NLEX Road Warriors facing off with the Northport Batang Pier at 7 p.m. Venue is the Smart Araneta Coliseum.