When Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates head coach Topex Robinson went to the podium for the post-game press conference, the usually-bubbly mentor did not know how to feel. Yes, his team had put up a valiant stand, but he still had one of his sons CJ Perez at the back of his mind.
“The reason it’s painful for us is because CJ didn’t do anything wrong. Hindi naman siya nag-ligang labas.”
Perez, who has been with Robinson for the last six years, was suspended for Game One of the NCAA Season 94 Seniors Basketball Tournament. The reason? He failed to notify the league that he was entering the 2018 PBA Rookie Draft.
However, what bothers Robinson was that just a few weeks ago, the Perpetual Help Altas figured in a controversy, as four of their players were alleged to have played in a league unsanctioned by the NCAA. There were photos and live stats that proved that the four Altas had joined the M-League.
The only punishment Perpetual received was a stern warning – just a slap on the wrist.
Even prior to that, Letran’s Koy Galvelo and San Sebastian’s RK Ilagan had played in a ‘ligang labas’ game a day after the league held its eligibility meeting. The two players were banned for five games.
This time around, the sanctions for Perez was both harsh and swift.
“Kung naglarong labas sana siya at nahuli, I would accept that. But I don’t know. The kid didn’t do anything wrong. It could’ve been a better Finals – it’s no guarantee that we’re going to win, but you want your best player in the game,” opined Robinson. “He deserves to be there. That’s just the way I feel.”
“I just hope there will be consistency. If there’s players at fault, let them face it. ‘Wag nilang itago yung mali at gagawan nila ng paraan. Yun lang sa akin.
“I’m speaking on my behalf again. If they’re gonna hate me, so be it. I’m speaking here not as a coach of LPU but as a father to CJ and I just feel about the pain he has to go through,” he admitted.
Moreover, filing a Temporary Restraining Order did not cross their minds even if it had happened 11 years ago, when San Beda filed one to fight off a suspension imposed on Yousif Aljamal.
“We knew about it, but we just don’t want to, me personally, I’m here to coach the team. I’m here to really make sure that the boys are ready,” shared the current head of basketball operations of the Lyceum system.
“We’re all about doing the right thing.”
Still, the Pirates had to move on. And they put up a gallant stand, cutting a once-27 point lead down to just 10 with about a minute left in the game.
“We have to accept the fact that again, we have a game to play. I’m happy the way we bounced back. We could’ve just rolled down and die but I’m happy,” said Robinson as he looked at Jaycee Marcelino, who sparked the run. “I told the players not to look at the score and keep on playing and I like what I saw.
“There’s still a fight in us and we’re excited for Game Two.”
What excites him the most is having his ‘son’ back. But his first order of business is to explain to him that this loss was not Perez’s fault.
“We just told him, obviously, mahirap kasi sabihin sa bata na alam mong walang ginawa. Napakahirap i-explain sa kanya.
“The reason why it’s frustrating is for the longest time that he’s been with me, I don’t think he deserves to be deprived from playing in the Finals. That’s for me. Rules are rules. It’s there, it’s written in the rule book. Rules are meant to be broken siguro?” Robinson quipped as he tried to make light of it.
“I’ve always been quiet. I’ve always respected the league, but ano ba ang liga na ito, para sa ano o para sa bata?
“I just want to be clear on that because I play for my players. I don’t know what to say now. Tomorrow’s a new day. We have a chance to bounce back. I’m so excited to have him there, not unless there’s other things are gonna be there. But I hope in a week’s time, we’ll see him on Game Two,” he closed.
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