At just 27 years old, CJ Perez has already proven that he is an elite basketball player.
The 6-foot-2 native of Pangasinan has already won two PBA scoring championships and was also part of Gilas Pilipinas during the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
But all of that is in the 5-on-5 scene.
Come May 26-30, Perez will still play for Gilas but for its 3×3 team as he, Mo Tautuaa, Joshua Munzon, and Alvin Pasaol are set to compete in the 2021 FIBA 3×3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Graz, Austria.
Perez, who was part of the team that won gold in the 30th Southeast Asian Games, knows that the teams they will face in the OQT will be more superior than the ones they faced in San Juan two years ago.
“Parang dun mo mararamdaman yung sobrang pisikal na 3×3. Yun yung nakikita namin sa mga scouting videos namin. Hindi ganun ka-fancy pero nakakagawa sila ng paraan. Mukang matitigas talaga yung katawan ng kalaban,” said Perez.
“Yun yung challenge sa amin kung paano makakasabay sa kanila.”
That is why for Perez, the seven-day camp they had in Inspire Sports Academy last week was important as FIBA 3×3 pro circuit vets Munzon, Karl Dehesa, and Santi Santillan were able to brace him and Tautuaa on what to expect.
“Kailangan ko pa matutunan yung larong 3×3 lalo na nandun sila Josh,” he said. “Sila yung beterano sa 3×3 at halos lahat ng nakalaban namin, nakalaban na nila. Kabisado na nila paano laruin 3×3 at labanan dun sa pro circuit.
“May tips din sila binibigay kay Coach Ronnie [Magsanoc] kasi kahit alam ni Coach Ronnie ang 3×3, iba pa rin yung world stage. Sila Karl at Josh talaga malaking natutulong sa amin.“
The Philippines is bracketed in Pool C along with Slovenia, France, Qatar, and the Dominican Republic.
The Slovenians will be composed of club team Piran, a team that has tussled with the Filipinos numerous times in the pro circuit. Same with Qatar, which will have Erfan Ali Saeed, Abdulrahman Saad, Nedim Muslic, and Seydou Ndoye.
Munzon, Pasaol Dehesa, and Santillan have also seen France’s Charly Pontens during the 2019 Poitiers Challenger and Raphael Wilson during the 2019 Jeddah Masters.
Gilas 3×3 will return to the Calambubble on Friday to wrap up their camp before flying to Austria.
For his part, Perez looks to make the most out of it, relishing the opportunity of having a chance to compete in the Tokyo Olympics.
“Kailangan ko i-maximize yung mga ganitong opportunity sa buhay ko, lalo ito Olympics na ang usapan. Kahit ganito kaaga, nabibigay na sa akin yung ganitong opportunity kaya i-gragrab ko siya,” he said.
“Madaming player ang nangangarap na maglaro sa Gilas kaya sobrang grateful ako na binibigyan ako ng ganitong chance ng Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas at nila Boss Al [Panlilio].”