The two-year rivalry between Robert Bolick and CJ Perez was, in a word, epic.
Though the heads-up match-up between the two ended up knotted at 3-all — with Perez copping a regular season MVP to boot — Bolick won has two chips compared to none for Perez.
But the rivalry between the two almost did not happen. Bolick and Perez were almost teammates… twice!
Everyone knows that back in 2014, Ateneo was able to get Perez after he left San Sebastian. At the same time, Bolick left La Salle and tried out for Ateneo and UP.
Bolick ended up going to San Beda after Kiefer Ravena recommended him to Jamike Jarin. On the other hand, Perez was unable to make it to Ateneo’s Team A after failing to meet the school’s high academic requirements.
Years before that, however, the two were almost teammates — and in La Salle, of all places.
“Hindi niyo alam ‘to eh — unang-unang dating ko sa La Salle, nandoon si CJ, kaming dalawa. Hindi pa siya San Sebastian, so sabay kaming dalawa, doon kami unang nagkita,” Bolick revealed during the second episode of The Prospects Pod, presented by SMART Sports.
Back then Bolick was a wide-eyed teenager from Ormoc, while Perez also travelled from Pangasinan to Manila to try out his luck.
“Pero ‘yung una kong tryout kasi sa La Salle ng college, bago nila ako tinapon sa high school kasi hindi nila alam high school pa pala ako. Ayaw kong mag-tryout, kinabahan ako. Ayaw kong kalaban ‘tong mga ito,” recalled Bolick, as Jeron Teng and Perez were there.
“Ang tagal ko doon. Sabi nung school ko sa Pangasinan mag-tryout ka doon, punta ka doon kahit one week lang. Hinanap ako doon sa’min, nagtatago ako kasi may kalaban kami doon. Tapos biglang pagpunta ko one week, hindi na ako pinapauwi hanggang umabot na ako ng four months mag-isa ako doon,” Perez recounted.
“Sabi ko, ang hirap naman ng buhay, pero maganda ‘yung ano… Nasa hotel ka, ‘yung sa tabi ng La Salle, doon ako nakatira. Apat na buwan, mag-isa lang ako.”
Perez could not clear one hurdle, though, so that he could finish his secondary studies in a La Salle school before joining the Green Archers.
“Sabi ko, mag-isa lang ako dito, tapos nung entrance exam na, ayaw ng school kasi ‘yung papers ko sa Pangasinan, nakita nila kasi isang sem ako hindi pumasok eh. Maraming drop. Ayaw tanggapin ng school so uwi ako agad, punta ako ng Baste, tapos doon na ako nag-Baste talaga,” Perez shared.
Perez ended up going back home before deciding on playing for San Sebastian. And it infuriated La Salle booster Danding Cojuangco, according to Bolick.
“Remember ko talaga, galit na galit talaga si Boss Danding noon na hindi nakuha si CJ, ‘yun ‘yung ‘di nawala sa isip ko,” said Bolick, who would graduate La Salle Green Hills before playing for the Green Archers for two years.
“Galit na galit talaga nung pinakawalan siya, pumunta siya sa San Sebastian.”
The dream Perez-Bolick backcourt was only realized during the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
Imagine, though, how many championships Perez and Bolick would have won for La Salle or Ateneo had the stars aligned. Up until today, the two can only imagine that damage they would have dealt had things pushed through.
“P’re, magkasama sana tayo noon.”