CJ Perez vows to do everything to help San Miguel in his PBA Finals debut
MANILA, Philippines–CJ Perez admitted feeling some jitters going into the first Finals appearance of his young career.
“Kinakabahan po ako [I feel nervous],” the all-around guard of the San Miguel Beermen said.
That doesn’t mean, however, that Perez will just let it affect his game as he hopes to make the most out of the experience against the TNT Tropang Giga for the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup crown.
Perez will come in as one of the key figures in the series which will see San Miguel try to regain its place as the league’s top All-Filipino squad.
“I’m excited to play in the Finals, but for sure it’s not going to be easy,” he said in Filipino. “But we’ll do everything we can to get the championship.”
It took his fourth season before the 28-year-old was able to make it to the league’s grandest stage. But he had to deal with the agony of losing as a member of the Columbian/Terrafirma franchise.
Perez showcased why he was chosen the first overall pick of the Dyip in the 2019 Draft, not only winning Rookie of the Year honors but also being named to the Mythical First Team in his first season.
He was also the Scoring Champion for his first two seasons and averaged 21.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.9 steals in 44 games wearing the Dyip uniform.
But the Dyip would only win 12 games in that span before Perez was shipped to the Beermen in January 2021 in a six-player deal, giving him a chance to finally experience the taste of playoff basketball.
A spot in the Finals eluded Perez and the Beermen, losing to the Tropang Giga in the 2021 Philippine Cup semifinals before being given the boot by the Meralco Bolts in the 2022 Governors’ Cup quarterfinals.
The third time was finally a charm for Perez as San Miguel got back at Meralco with a tough seven-game win in the semis. Now, they’ll try to turn the tables on TNT as well, this time for a prize he has coveted since turning pro.
He is expected to play tit-for-tat with TNT’s top backcourt players such as an elite scorer in Mikey Williams and a veteran playing like fine wine in Jayson Castro.
“It’s going to be tough,” said Perez. “They have a lot of veteran and talented players, and we have to match their effort and energy in order for us to get an advantage.”
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