Friends of mine on social media would attest that I am one in supporting the inclusion of Philippine Basketball Association rookie CJ Perez in the Gilas Pilipinas roster competing at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China beginning next month.
On Facebook, I have written a number of times that the “Baby Beast” is a good addition to Gilas on the strength of his tremendous motor, athleticism and strength, which would be an asset to the national team.
Back in 2016 I also wrote something like this for big man Raymond Almazan, for him to be included in the then Tab Baldwin-handled Gilas team for what he could bring to the frontline of the squad.
Baldwin was able to tag him along and Almazan has been delivering since for the nationals every time he is called up for duty.
And I see the same for Perez, who plays for Columbian Dyip in the PBA.
Just like the “Beast” Calvin Abueva, from which his moniker was taken from, Perez has the ability to affect the complexion of games on both ends of the court when he takes the floor.
But unlike Abueva, who plays bigger than his size, Perez plays just right for his built – around 6’2” and solid for the small forward and guard positions – making it easier for coaches to match him with opponents.
He, too, does a better job, in my opinion, in creating shots for himself and his teammates with his athleticism as attested by his impressive “rookie” numbers in the pros of 23 points, seven rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.9 steals in the ongoing PBA Commissioner’s Cup, an import-laden tournament at that.
Perez does not have the kind of spunk that Abueva has, but it could be well and good as the latter sometimes have the tendency to go overboard with it.
One thing that stands out for me with the former Lyceum star and National Collegiate Athletic Association most valuable player is his motor.
It is continuous motion for him, whether on offense or defense, giving him the ability to make things happen to good results most of the time.
You do not necessarily have to create a play for him as his movements would allow him to be in positions to get his points while on defense he plays the passing lanes well and good in providing help defense.
His versatility is also worth noting, more so with the likes of Jayson Castro, Scottie Thompson and Ray Parks Jr. deciding to skip the World Cup.
With his style of play, he can play multiple positions, giving Gilas coach Yeng Guiao flexibility in using him during games.
He also shows a take-charge guy mentality, honed by his days with the Pirates in college and now with the Dyip in the PBA, and is not afraid to rise to the occasion.
Classic case of this was last Monday during Gilas’ tune-up game with import-loaded Mighty Sports, which is preparing for the Jones Cup later this week.
With Mighty Sports leading by three points, 85-82, with less than 20 seconds to go in the game, Perez stepped up to the plate and drained the game-tying triple with 14 seconds left. The game eventually ended in a draw at 85-all.
At the World Cup in China, the Philippines is surely to have a tough time against the best in the world and will need every boost it can get.
Perez definitely can help and is worth serious consideration and pickup. Make it happen, Gilas.
Michael Angelo S. Murillo has been a columnist since 2003. He is a BusinessWorld reporter covering the Sports beat.