From the moment he set foot in the Cuneta Astrodome on Friday as part of Columbian Dyip’s starting five versus San Miguel Beermen, CJ Perez would be the fist to admit that he had butterflies in his stomach.
“Nung unang tapak ko, nung first five, nakaramdam ako ng nerbyos,” he said.
“Pero yung nerbyos na excited lang yun.”
But his excitement spiraled out of control and turned to over-eagerness. After the game’s first 24 minutes, Perez found himself with just two points on 1-of-6 shooting, along with two turnovers and one personal foul.
Thankfully, the 15-minute halftime break helped.
The Lyceum product was more collected and went with the game’s flow come the second half. And he became much more effective to the delight of not just the pro-Columbian crowd, but his teammates and coaches as well.
Perez would go on to unload 24 points in the half, 13 of which came in the final frame, where he was one of the cogs that steered the Dyip from a six-point deficit en route to a massive 124-118 upset of the reigning all-Filipino champs.
Perez finished with 26 points and five rebounds in over 32 minutes.
“Really proud of my boys … Nag-step up CJ nung second half,” praised Dyip head coach Johnedel Cardel of the proud son of Bautista, Pangasinan. “Pinupush ko talaga siya.
“Sabi ko, dalhin mo yung team na ‘to kahit rookie siya.”
Indeed, Perez had a debut to remember. And he couldn’t be thrilled enough.
“Sobrang nakakataba ng puso,” said the one-time NCAA Most Valuable Player. “Kasi first game ko as a Columbian Dyip player, nanalo, and tapos San Miguel pa yung natalo namin.
“So ang saya, ang saya lang sa feeling.”
However, as big of a factor he was in the victory, Perez did not take all the limelight himself, as he also gave due credit to his teammates.
“‘Di naman siguro dahil sa’kin kaya nanalo kami today. Lahat talaga nag-effort. Nandun yung effort. Hindi sila tumigil,” said Perez, the 2018 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup MVP.
“Yung energy hindi bumaba. Yun yung key kaya kami nanalo.”