On Sunday evening, CJ Perez was at the Mahaka Arena in Jakarta, Indonesia with Gilas Pilipinas Men for a road game in the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers.
Then exactly 18 hours after that game ended, Perez was 2,781 kilometers away, training with another national team — Gilas Pilipinas 3×3 — at Gold’s Gym Athletics Sheridan in Mandaluyong City.
And there was no semblance of fatigue in the 26-year-old combo guard while figuring in three grueling 3×3 tune-ups — on top of their 5-on-5 game against Indonesia last night.
“Ganun talaga, sacrifice lang. Para sa bayan ito, kaya dapat gawin kung ano makakaya natin.
“Kakarating lang kaninang umaga tapos diretso na dito sa Gold’s. Sobrang blessed na nagising ako kanina ng may lakas at naka-practice ako ng maayos ngayon. Balik ulit dito bukas,” said Perez, as the team left for Manila at around 1:00 am and arrived a couple of hours later.
For Perez, he needed to train with the team that includes him, Joshua Munzon, Alvin Pasaol, and Mo Tautuaa to develop chemistry, with the FIBA 3X3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament just 23 days away. This was just the second time that the quartet shared the court.
Moreover, the national team is actually pressed for time as head trainer Stefan Stojacic will only be around until Thursday before flying back to Serbia.
“Uuwi na si Coach Stefan sa Thursday kaya sinasamantala namin ‘yung time niya dito. Kailangan namin bilisan na matutunan ‘yung techniques na tinuturo niya,” said Perez.
“Malaking tulong sa amin sila coach kasi lumalakas ‘yung katawan namin sa kanila. Tapos matalino pa maglaro. It’s an honor na nandito sila.”
In the two sessions the team has had, Gilas 3×3 figured in numerous tune-ups. One of the teams includes top Serbian players Vrbas’ Marko Brankovic (world no. 50), Ralja’s Nebojsa Kilijan (75), and Belgrade’s Vladimir Trajkovic (116).
Besides the difference in opposition in comparison to Southeast Asian Games — where he, Tautuaa, Jason Perkins, and Chris Newsome won gold — Perez also noticed the difference in their training compared to when they were under Ronnie Magsanoc.
“Oo, iba talaga. Hindi naman madali ‘yung SEA Games, pero mas mahirap ‘yung mga Europeans kalaban. Laro talaga nila ito eh. ‘Yung mga nakakalaban namin dito, kabisado nila ‘yung laro.”
With the tournament in Bangalore, India just a few days away, Perez vows that he will never miss a practice again even if it will be tiresome.
As he put it:
“Parang… May future kasi kami na nakikita, pero pinaghahandaan pa namin kung paghahandaan ‘yung laro.”
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