CJ Perez shrugs off rookie jitters to deliver PBA debut fitting of top pick
MANILA, Philippines—CJ Perez dutifully proved that his status as the top overall pick of the 2018 PBA Rookie Draft was well deserved.
Columbian’s prized rookie starred in his debut game, putting 26 points and grabbing down five rebounds to lead his team to an upset 124-118 win over defending champion San Miguel in the Philippine Cup Friday at Cuneta Astrodome.
Perez, though, almost didn’t have a stellar of a game since he battled through rookie jitters the whole first half scoring just two points in the opening 24 minutes.
Sensing that things had to change, Perez went to attack mode in the second half in what he described as one of the most exhilarating feelings he’s ever had on a basketball court.
“It’s a tremendous feeling for me to play in the PBA because this is my first game and San Miguel, of all teams, was our opponent,” said Perez in Filipino. “They’re the top team and it’s a pleasure and also an amazing opportunity for me, for the Columbian team, to perform well against the Beermen.”
“That first half was different because when I got to the dugout, when I stepped to the court, and when I got called for the starters’ introduction, I felt a sudden surge of being nervous but I think I was just excited for my first game.”
From shooting bricks in the first half, 1-of-8 to be exact, Perez turned it up a notch and had an efficient 7-of-12 clip including a breakaway layup that gave the Dyip a 114-112 lead with less than three minutes left.
Perez said that being the no.1 overall pick brings due pressure to his shoulders and he knows that there’s no other way of going around it.
“People have high expectations of me and of course there’s pressure that we all have to handle,” said Perez. “I think it wasn’t just because of me that we won. Every single one of us put in the effort, my teammates never stopped, the energy never dipped, and that I think was the key for us.”
“It’s heartwarming for me because this is my first game as a Columbian Dyip player and we won against San Miguel nonetheless, I’m just so happy.”
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