Crying about CJ Perez’s ban wouldn’t change anything but raising facts might do

By Klyde Manansala | Photo by Tristan Tamayo | Art by Marian Hukom

“An athlete may avail/apply for draft in the professional league, provided [that]… he must inform the Management Committee in writing and duly endorsed by their school representative.”

This was the rule that banned CJ Perez from playing in Lyceum’s opening campaign against defending champions San Beda Red Lions. Not only did the suspension prohibited the do-it-all forward from suiting up, it also disqualified him for the league’s individual awards.

Generally speaking, there are rules in sports that will raise eyebrows—and with all certainty, this NCAA ruling falls within that classification. Even Quinito Henson agrees:

Simply put, the Pirates’ best player and overwhelming favorite for this year’s PBA draft didn’t see action in yesterday’s 13-point loss to San Beda for failing to inform the league that he had already signed up for draft last month. If we put it into another context, it’s like asking your parents’ permission first before sending job applications.

Perez is a graduating student-athlete. On top of that, he’s projected to be a sterling rookie who could make inroads and stand out in PBA. So why would NCAA penalize a player preparing for his future career? Did he pull off shady sh*t? Was anyone hurt after he applied for the draft?

Of course, the league used the rules are rules card but to make better sense of this rule, let’s go back in history. In Season 83 (2007), Yousif Aljamal Jr. of San Beda faced the same consequences. Only that time, he was given the green light to play after his team issued a temporary restraining order to thwart the ban. Lyceum head coach Topex Robinson could have made the same action after the questionably short notice. But when asked why they didn’t:

“Personally, I’m here to coach the team. I’m here to make sure the boys are ready. We’re all about doing the right thing. If those are the rules, it has to be the rules.”

“Crying over this wouldn’t change a thing. Pointing fingers wouldn’t either. If it were a bench warmer who got suspended, people might not even make a case of it. But there’s too much discrepancy and inconsistency that are worth questioning

Sure, Perez violated the rule. Fining him would have been reasonable. But to deprive Perez from playing in probably the most significant game of his college career is contentious. While having Perez in the roster doesn’t necessarily assure Lyceum a win, it does guarantee the chance of better competition between the two squads.

The Red Lions’ lead stretched to as much as 22 points, but the gritty Pirates knocked on San Beda’s doors come the second half. They even managed to trim the lead down to 10, but Robert Bolick and Javee Mocon completely shut the door to seal the victory.

Crying over this wouldn’t change a thing. Pointing fingers wouldn’t either. If it were a bench warmer who got suspended, people might not even make a case of it. But there’s too much discrepancy and inconsistency that are worth questioning.

“Instead of issuing a warning like what they did to Perpetual Altas, why didn’t the league do the same for Lyceum? What could have been the possible motives behind the heavy hand?

The usually mild-mannered Robinson struggled to hold in his frustrations after their defeat, leading him to question the league’s inaction on Edgar Charcos and Kim Aurin—Perpetual’s transferees who were seen playing in “ligang labas” during their redshirt season last year.

Hindi naman nag-ligang labas si CJ. Kung nag-larong labas sana siya at nahuli, I would accept that. I just hope there will be consistency. If there are players at fault, let them face it. Huwag nilang itago ‘yung mali at gagawan nila ng paraan,” Robinson says.

Even Bolick, who contributed 12 points and nine assists in their win, wished Perez was present in the opening game of their clash. “‘Yun yung gusto namin eh. If we lose then it’s okay kasi competitive kami eh. Gusto namin kung sino pinakamagaling, yun yung kakalabanin namin.”

Instead of issuing a warning like what they did to Perpetual Altas, why didn’t the league do the same for Lyceum? What could have been the possible motives behind the heavy hand? Social media raised some interesting takes:

The only silver lining is that this is a best-of-three series. San Beda currently holds the twice-to-beat advantage, but with Perez back on Monday, expect his squad to use the situation to motivate them.

All everyone wanted was a textbook finals series. One rule took it all away. Like what Robinson said, “That game will be lost forever” for Perez.