FOSHAN -- The rookies of Gilas Pilipinas continue to give a good account of themselves in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, with CJ Perez in particular putting on a strong performance in their loss to Serbia on Monday night.
Columbian Dyip's Perez, the top overall pick in the 2018 PBA Draft, was the Philippines' best player on the floor for long stretches against Serbia, and he finished with a team-high 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting. One of his field goals was a steal of Denver All-Star Nikola Jokic's inbound pass for a quick bucket.
Also showing his worth was NorthPort's Robert Bolick, who clustered together a personal 5-point run in the second quarter to keep Gilas within striking distance. He finished with 7 points in what turned out to be a massive 126-67 loss for the Philippines.
Coach Yeng Guiao said he was not surprised to see Perez play well, having observed the former NCAA MVP's constant improvement during their training camp in Spain as well as in their tune-ups in Manila.
"I had some inkling from what I've seen in Spain, and from what I've seen in our practices. I'm not really surprised. So, CJ was one of the few bright spots, actually, in this campaign," he said.
Perez is the Philippines' top scorer in the tournament, averaging 15.5 points on 57% shooting from the field.
Guiao also commended Bolick, noting that he "showed a lot of tenacity, determination and maturity in this game."
"He had to raise his level of play very quickly for this World Cup, so I think it's also still a bright spot for the two guys," he added.
But while Perez and Bolick are having solid campaigns, the same cannot be said for the other Gilas veterans. Andray Blatche has disappointed, norming just 10 points in the past two games while shooting 35% from the field. June Mar Fajardo has had his moments, but Guiao noted that they need the reigning PBA MVP to play more consistently.
Paul Lee fired 15 points against Serbia after a quiet debut against Italy last Saturday night, and he too commended their rookies for their fearless play.
"Sobrang proud ako kasi nga, for me sila na 'yung maglalaro for the next generation. So nakikita ko na, 'pag ganyan 'yung nilalaro nila natutuwa ako. Sana mag-improve pa sila talaga," he said of Perez and Bolick.
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.