CJ aims for TerraFirma breakout
CJ Perez
STAR/ File
CJ aims for TerraFirma breakout
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - October 8, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — TerraFirma (formerly Columbian) head coach Johnedel Cardel can’t wait for the PBA to restart its 45th season in the Clark bubble on Sunday, pointing to the league’s top scorer CJ Perez as the leader of the Dyip pack backed up by a mix of hardened veterans and three blue-chip rookies.

“Mentally focused si CJ,” said Cardel. “Since galing sa World Cup, tumaas ang level ng kaniyang maturity at confidence. Established na si CJ, nothing to prove kaya goals niya are only to help our team win, to bring us to the playoffs, to be a good teammate. He’s eager to win. Natandaan ko, first-ever PBA game ni CJ against San Miguel Beer, two points siya at halftime. Sabi ko huwag siya manggigil, work as a team. Sa second half, nag-score siya ng 24 points at nanalo kami, 124-118.”

Cardel, 50, is in his fifth conference with the Dyip franchise. Since breaking into the PBA in 2014-15, TerraFirma has qualified for the playoffs only once in 15 conferences, compiling an overall record of 45-122. Last season, the team posted an 11-22 mark, its best in three years and nine of the losses were by six points or less. “I’m grateful (PBA vice chairman and TerraFirma governor) Boss Bobby (Rosales) gave me this chance,” he said. “Pagbubutihin namin. We were undefeated in four preseason games before the lockdown. I’m hoping that this conference, we’re able to decide our own fate kasi last season, we relied on other teams losing sa dulo instead of putting ourselves in a position to qualify for the playoffs. Once pumasok kami sa playoffs, we’ll take it step by step.”

Cardel said staying in the bubble has its benefits. “Of course, sacrifice to be away from family,” said the father of three (aged 25, 21, 16) and grandfather of twins. “Sama-sama kami sa bubble at maganda ang set-up ng PBA, it’s for our safety and good for bonding. Back to scrimmages na kami. We’re working to be in game-shape. First-class ang Angeles University Foundation gym, sa fourth floor kami maglalaro ng actual games. Pati yung practice facility sa second floor, first-class. Everyday ang schedule ng games kaya I told the guys to be ready. Walang short lineup, 1 to 15 players will play kaya dapat laging handa.” TerraFirma opens the conference against TNT Tropang GIGA on Oct. 13.

Cardel said he’ll pick his starters depending on the opposition but off-hand, his first five could be point guard Toto Calvo, off-guard Rashawn McCarthy, shooting forward Perez, rookie power forward Roosevelt Adams and center Aldrech Ramos. He said his rotation will be deep with Reden Celda, Juami Tiongson, Glenn Khobuntin, Eric Camson, Joseph Gabayni, Keith Agovida, Jeepy Faundo, Andreas Cahilig and rookies Bon Bon Batiller and Chris Balagasay. Adams, 26, is a 6-5 Fil-Am who plays multiple positions. Batiller, 26, is a 5-11 defensive guard while Balagasay, 24, is a 6-6 frontliner. Both Batiller and Balagasay are from Letran. “Si Chris, parang Marc Pingris, rebounder, defender,” said Cardel. “Can shoot the three pero sabi ko, focus sa defense at rebounding kasi we’ve got a lot of scorers. Si Bon parang Ronald Tubid, stopper, pwede dumepensa sa big guards like Paul Lee, palaban siya, enforcer. Si Adams parang Troy Rosario, pwede mag 3, 4 or 5. Big factor ang mga rookies.”

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