Give And Go

The just-started finals series of Season 94 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) between the defending champions San Beda Red Lions and Lyceum Pirates got an unexpected twist even before it unfurled with the suspension meted on King Pirate CJ Perez.
While as of this writing it is still to be determined if Lyceum will pursue a temporary restraining order to allow Perez to play, the suspension was expected to see the reigning league most valuable player sit out Game One of their best-of-three finals rematch with the Lions on Tuesday.
The suspension was over the failure of Perez and his camp to inform the league that he had applied for the 2018 Philippine Basketball Association Rookie Draft.
As per league rules, it is mandated that student-athletes inform the NCAA in writing of their intention to be part of a professional league prior to submitting their application.
Reports have it that Perez only informed the league that he had applied for the PBA draft days after he submitted the requirements to meet the Oct. 29 deadline given to players categorized as Filipino-foreigners.
The NCAA found Perez in violation of league rules and after careful evaluation decided to suspend him for at least a game.
Expectedly Lyceum, which said it also was not informed of Perez’s submission of application, appealed the decision to the management committee but eventually was turned down, with the NCAA defending it as in accordance with existing league rules and intended in the end to promote the spirit of sportsmanship and discipline in the league.
Some parties labelled the NCAA decision as “a joke” or “unfair,” even citing notably the case of former San Beda star Yousif Aljamal and San Sebastian’s Leo Najorda, who were also suspended for the same infraction a decade ago.
Now, regardless of where one stands in this issue, there is no denying that the timing of it is very off and could be costly for Lyceum, seeking its first-ever NCAA title and is angling to bounce back after being swept by San Beda in last year’s finals.
Perez has been do-it-all for the Pirates in Season 94, averaging solid steady numbers of 18.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.3 steals per game.
He has been a true “motor” for his team on both ends of the court and a key reason why Lyceum is one of the top teams in the country’s longest-standing collegiate league in the last two seasons.
Take him away in the Pirates picture and surely everything will be disrupted, he is that valuable to the team.
Making matters worse, Lyceum was hardly given time to adjust as the decision was brought down on the eve of Game One on Monday.
And, yes, there is also the fact that the Pirates are facing the best team in the NCAA in San Beda in the finals.
Of course, Perez’s suspension could well be a rallying point for Lyceum and may see other players step up in place of its top man. But the Pirates and their supporters could only hope for that.
As lamentable the situation is for Lyceum, with what-could-have-beens beckoning, it is what it is and that there is still a finals series to be played. It is going to be interesting how the Pirates come out of this.
 
Michael Angelo S. Murillo has been a columnist since 2003. He is a BusinessWorld reporter covering the Sports beat.
msmurillo@bworldonline.com