By Jonas Terrado

With his hands on the wheel, CJ Perez is setting his sights on leading the Columbian Dyip to the playoffs as he enters his second PBA season faced with high expectations.

CJ Perez of Columbian Dyip defended by Matthew Wright of Phoenix. (MB photo | Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

CJ Perez of Columbian Dyip, right, defended by Matthew Wright of Phoenix. (MB photo | Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

Perez, a frontrunner for the Rookie of the Year which will be handed during the 45th season opener on March 8, is working doubly hard to put the Dyip to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2016 after falling short in all three conferences the previous season.

Columbian went 11-22 in 2019 but gave itself a fighting chance in the race for the bottom playoff spots each conference.

“Nabitin kami last season pero this season, sana makamit na namin yung playoffs,” said Perez. “Kung paghihirapan namin siguro makakamit namin kasi hindi naman madaling makapasok sa playoffs.”

For that to happen, Perez is determined to equal or at least exceed the performance he put the previous campaign that saw the former Lyceum star average a league-best 20.8 points with 7.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.9 steals.

Perez’s play also earned him a spot with Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA World Cup in China where he emerged as one of the team’s best players. He also helped the country’s win the gold in the inaugural 3×3 competition of the Southeast Asian Games.

He was also selected in Gilas pool for this month’s two 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers matches against Thailand and Indonesia.

“Either isustain ko lang or higitan ko pa mga nagawa ko kasi yung expectation ng tao mas tataas pa lalo kasi nakita nila kung paano ako maglaro nung rookie ako,” he said. “So ayun, more hardwork and discipline lang sa katawan para masustain ko yung ganoong laro.”

Perez is hoping to get some help from holdovers Rashawn McCarthy, who averaged 14.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.2 steals, Glenn Khobuntin and Eric Camson and role players Juami Tiongson and Andreas Cahilig.

Coach Johnedel Cardel’s team also selected Roosevelt Adams as the top overall pick in the draft while acquiring veteran Aldrech Ramos from Magnolia in exchange for Jackson Corpuz.

Source: Manila Bulletin