MANILA, Philippines – Even as they now go their separate ways in basketball, coach Topex Robinson will always think of CJ Perez as his son.
With Robinson calling the shots and Perez as the star, the Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates turned from cellar-dwellers to legitimate title contenders in the NCAA. They made the finals in Seasons 93 and 94, losing in both instances to the dynastic San Beda University Red Lions.
The Perez era in Lyceum came to an end on Monday, when they dropped Game 2 of the Season 94 finals, 71-56. Perez had 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists in his final collegiate game.
Perez is now expected to be one of the top picks – if not the top pick – in the upcoming PBA rookie draft in December, and Robinson knows that the team that will get him will have a star in their hands.
"You saw him earlier. He could really takeover a team if he wants to," Robinson said of his player, who won MVP honors in Season 93 but was disqualified from any individual awards this year because of a controversial suspension.
"I'm excited for him kasi he just keeps on playing. Kumbaga, low maintenance na player," he added. "You'll never see him get mad, get pissed off, manisi."
Given that Perez may be the first player off the draft – Columbian Dyip owns the No. 1 pick – it is unlikely that Robinson will get the chance to coach him in the professional level. Robinson currently serves as the first deputy to Louie Alas in Phoenix.
However, Robinson is not giving up hope that he will one day get to reunite with Perez.
"Hopefully, I'll be given a chance to coach him in the PBA, 'yun 'yung one of the dreams that I have and hopefully it will come in the future but he's really a prize for me," said the coach.
"I always am grateful for the relationship we have. 'Yun 'yung isang next level kasi again I made a commitment to them that they are gonna be my children," he added. "So whether they are with LPU or with another team, they are going to be forever my children."
Perez, for his part, is already looking forward to his first encounter against his coach in the PBA.
"Dudurugin ko 'yun," he said, before quickly adding, "Hindi, joke lang."
"Pero siyempre, 'di naman magbabago 'yun. Siyempre, siya 'yung daddy ko, siya 'yung mentor ko. So excited ako makita siya sa PBA, hindi na sa NCAA," he added.
Robinson guarantees that they will maintain this familial relationship even when Perez is already in the professional league. This goes for his other players in Lyceum as well, including team captain MJ Ayaay who is also expected to declare for the PBA draft.
"Ang sabi ko nga sa kanila, getting there is easy because of what you did," said Robinson. "Staying there is gonna be a challenge. And that's where I'm gonna come in."
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