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CJ Perez shines for Pirates

By JEROME LAGUNZAD

Everything is going right for returning NCAA star CJ Perez so far.

Out of the collegiate limelight for two years, the 6-foot-1 Perez is proving he’s truly worth the wait, especially to Lyceum coach Topex Robinson and his fellow Pirates who have been making early noise in the 93rd NCAA seniors basketball tournament.

After an eventful opening week filled with intense and drama – on and off the court, the Pirates have put themselves on top of the leaderboard with a 2-0 record and underscored their readiness to contend – the modest being a Final 4 berth that the school has yet to secure since it joined the league in 2011.

Lyceum opened its title campaign with a bang by overwhelming perennial Final 4 contender Jose Rizal U 96-75 last Tuesday then followed it up with a stunning five-point victory over defending champion San Beda three days after.

And there’s little doubt that Perez, who failed to see action for UAAP powerhouse Ateneo after transferring from San Sebastian in 2014, has been the driving force behind the Pirates’ early assault.

The Bautista, Pangasinan native is averaging 23.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game, practically doing a little bit of everything for the Pirates who have been billed as the prime threat to the Red Lions’ reign.

But Robinson, 42, is as quick as he once was during his heyday in the pro ranks in terms of keeping his prized guard’s feet on the ground.

“He’s gonna make mistakes pa rin. That’s what I always tell him – he’s gonna win games for us, he’s gonna lose games for us. That’s the way of the world for us,” he stressed, with Perez sitting beside him during a recent interview.

“CJ knows that he will never be better than his teammates. He can never win it by himself. Success is a team sport.

And it’s really about us. It’s really about a good group of coaches. It’s not even about me. It’s all about us, the entirety of the team.”

And Perez, who powered the Golden Stags to their last semifinals trip in 2013 during his rookie year, knows he could not do it all by his lonesome.

“‘Yung team talaga ang secret dun. Kaya nananalo kami, depensa rin talaga. Nakakatulong rin talaga sila sa akin,” he beamed, referring to the likes of Cameroon import Mike Nzeusseu, veterans Reymar Caduyac, Mer Ayaay and the Marcelino twins – JV and JC.

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