Gilas doubters ‘inspired’ SEA Games gold win, says CJ Perez
PHNOM PENH—CJ Perez searched for a personal motivation to keep him going and found his from all the non-believing skeptics of Gilas Pilipinas.
“All those doubters, they inspired us. They made us highly motivated to win,” said Perez after attaining success with Gilas despite adopting a contradictory mindset.
After the pieces of the team were put hastily together shortly before the 32nd Southeast Asian Games here, the swarm of pessimists became louder when Gilas got whacked by host Cambodia during the men’s basketball elimination phase.
The Filipinos were able to redeem their pride versus a Cambodian side souped up with multiple American imports through an 80-69 dismantling of the host nation to reclaim the SEA Games crown on Tuesday evening.
“It’s an honor and I’m very grateful to help reclaim the gold medal for our country,” said Perez, now a two-time SEA Games champion that began with his golden stint at the 2019 Manila Games.
The Filipinos, who, for decades ruled as kings of the biennial meet in men’s basketball, relinquished their throne to Indonesia in the Hanoi Games last year.
The Gilas redeem team had to conquer not a few challenges, including a short training camp, logistical troubles and an injury, among others.
“We actually played not only for the doubters but for the supporters, too. Both kept us inspired throughout the journey,” said Perez, a two-time Philippine Basketball Association scoring champion from San Miguel Beer.
For Perez, competing in the SEA Games isn’t as demanding as playing in the PBA.
“The PBA is more physical and the rules are different, but we were able to adjust quickly,” said the league’s 2019 rookie of the year and part of the mythical five selection in the same season.
By winning the SEA Games title the second time around, Perez not only knows it could help jack up his market value, but he also proved all Gilas non-believers wrong.