CJ Perez (No.7) is shipped to San Miguel Beer in exchange for three players, including big man Russel Escoto (left), and the Beermens’ first-round pick in this year’s draft. —PHOTO GRACIOUS BY PBA IMAGES

Leo Austria saw CJ Perez in action – as a San Miguel Beer player and not at the other end of the pitch where he was the Beermen’s defensive problem – and easily concluded two things that will come in the way of the former PBA Rookie of the Year (ROY) opening the league’s 46th season on April 9.

“He will help us a lot,” Austria said on the phone Wednesday evening between two deep breaths as he took his early evening walk in his village. “But I assure you that the game will also be much easier for him because he will not have to do everything (in San Miguel).”

Perez came to the Beermens over a month ago in a successful trade with Terrafirma and made San Miguel an even more formidable crew.

“It won’t be that hard for him anymore,” Austria continued, listing things Perez needed to do with the Dyip, where he had very little help. “[At San Miguel] he will have a lot of help. His teammates here can make him even better and he can return the favor by improving his teammates as well.


The Beermens were dethroned as Philippine Cup kings after a five-year reign when sister team Barangay Ginebra triumphed in the bubble at Clark last year. And Austria believes that even with Perez joining the likes of June Mar Fajardo, Alex Cabagnot, Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter and Chris Ross, it will still be an uphill battle if San Miguel is to regain lost glory.

“All the teams have improved, from coach changes to player offerings and additions,” Austria said. “There is no safe ball in this league.”

Austria also said the 6-foot-10 Fajardo has started training and weight-bearing exercises at 100% and that he expects the reigning player six times the most. Valuable can see the action when the league kicks off next month with the Philippine Cup.

The Beermens are doing scrum-free group practices at the moment due to health concerns, and that’s where he first saw Perez training. And Austria can feel their players ready and eager to leave once the league receives the signal to go from the Interagency Working Group for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to dive into full training.

“June Mar trains almost every day and we continue to monitor her progress,” said the eight-time champion coach. “He’s doing pretty well and I’m sure he’ll be here with us on April 9.”

Project issues

Meanwhile, the PBA draft pool, considered by many to be the deepest in recent years, could turn out to be a little shallower on Friday with 10 Filipino prospects of foreign blood who have yet to get – and should not get – their respective clearances to be eligible, counting some first-round picks Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser, Jason Brickman and Jeremiah Gray.

A check with the league commissioner’s office on Wednesday night put 21 hopes on the pitch, including Santi Santillan, a 6-foot-10 former La Salle center and consensus No.1 pick Joshua Munzon, the 3 × star. 3 by 6 feet 4 inches that the Dyip planes rebuild around.

“The upcoming conference will be very interesting,” Austria concluded.

Ganuelas-Rosser, Brickman and Gray are potential impact players who could turn modest franchises and their failures to gain recognition from their Immigration Office and Justice Department claims could delay plans for some of the teams in the hope of landing great talents on March 14. Rough draft.

Similarly, the league’s board of directors will meet in person for three days starting Monday to discuss the league’s plans for the year. This session will be held in the country for the first time in more than a decade due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has prevented the council from traveling outside the country.

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