Winning the biggest achievement of his young career means a lot to CJ Perez, whose splendid play for San Miguel Beer earned him the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup Best Player of the Conference citation.
“It means a lot to me, especially at this point of my career,” Perez said before he was officially given the honor before Game 4 of the Beermen’s championship series with the Magnolia Hotshots at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Perez was adjudged as the import-laden conference’s top player after garnering 1,055 points based on statistics and votes from media and players. He became somewhat of a cinch after helping the Beermen reach the Finals following a late surge.
Barangay Ginebra’s Christian Standhardinger placed second with 777 points followed by NorthPort’s Arvin Tolentino with 559 points.
The winner of the Best Import trophy was a surprise as Phoenix’s Johnathan Williams defeated finalists Bennie Boatwright of San Miguel Beer and Tyler Bey of Magnolia, and the announcement didn’t sit well with fans of both teams.
Williams had 1,017 points to become the first Phoenix import to win the award given to the best foreign player. Bey was second with 908 points while Boatwright, a late arrival who went undefeated in nine games that boosted the Beermen to the title series, placed third with 808.
Williams was second behind Boatwright in statistical points but made up for that by topping the votes from the media, which felt that Williams deserved the award for his major contribution in leading Phoenix—whose local roster wasn’t given much look in the preseason—to a fairytale semifinal appearance.
It was the first time that the Best Import went to someone who didn’t reach the PBA Finals since Meralco’s Arinze Onuaku in the 2016 Commissioner’s Cup.
Biggest honor yet
The Best Player award is the biggest for Perez, who was drafted first overall by Terrafirma in 2019, winning Rookie of the Year in the process. He also received multiple Mythical First Team honors for both the Dyip and the Beermen.
Perez bucked a minor slump midway in the eliminations and played an important part in the Beermen’s entry to the Finals with an 11-game winning streak. San Miguel was seeking a 3-1 lead over Magnolia at presstime.
Through Game 3 of the Finals, Perez was producing conference averages of 16.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.2 steals.
Perez is eyeing a second championship, and is considered as the most consistent player for San Miguel in the Finals.“I think it’s because of my desire to get another championship, and we have a really big chance of winning,” Perez said. “I’m always giving my best because of the trust of our coaches even when I have bad games. I’m just grateful that we’re playing well at this stage of the conference.”