MANILA, Philippines – They may just be in their rookie season in the PBA, but young guards CJ Perez and Robert Bolick are ready to fight for their places in the Philippine national basketball team.
NorthPort's Bolick and Columbian's Perez officially joined the Gilas Pilipinas pool on Monday, practicing with the team ahead of the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Their inclusion was announced by head coach Yeng Guiao, who praised the two freshman guards for their willingness to help the national team's cause.
"In the case of Robert and CJ, sila 'yung nag-initiate na makapag-practice sila, that's why we invited them. Nagparamdam sila na gusto nilang mag-try ng luck nila to be in the pool," Guiao revealed.
Given the depth that Gilas has in the guard position, there are of course no guarantees that Bolick and Perez will be included in the line-up for the World Cup. Even with Jayson Castro and Scottie Thompson opting not to join, Guiao still has the returning Kiefer Ravena, and veterans Paul Lee and Mark Barroca in his lineup.
For Bolick and Perez, however, the opportunity to play with the best that the Philippines has to offer is too good to pass up.
"Isang opportunity 'to na matuto and siyempre para i-represent 'yung country kung sakaling masama kami sa lineup," said Perez. "Pero pag hindi naman, we’re grateful naman na napasama kami sa pool."
"Ito na 'yung opportunity eh di ba. Grab mo lang 'yung opportunity na makasali ka sa ganitong malaking Gilas eh. So sa akin binibigay ko lang 'yung best ko," Bolick said for his part.
Bolick said he is ready for whatever decision Guiao will make about his inclusion into the lineup.
"Kung ma-lineup, eh di tatrabahuhin ko. Pag hindi, eh 'di may mga kulang pa ko na kailangang trabahuhin. Pero hindi ako mada-down nun. Mas lalo akong sisipagin nun kasi 'yun nga, mga ganung klaseng situation maybe may kulang pa diba," he pointed out.
According to Guiao, both Bolick and Perez should be among the top candidates to represent the Philippines in the Southeast Asian Games later this year, if the country does decide to field in professional players to the competition.
The possibility excites both rookie guards, who vowed to keep giving their best in Gilas practices moving forward.
"Matututunan na namin kung ano 'yung gagawin namin and kung may mga practice, syempre 'pag 'di kami na-lineup, nandito parin kami para alam namin kung ano 'yung gagawin namin kung sakaling tawagin kami," said Perez.
"Masarap na feeling na sa 'min 'yun kasi we're playing for Gilas eh. This is the most prestigious," said Bolick. "It's really an honor and blessing na tinatanggap ko lang lahat ‘to, lahat. So 'yun."
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