It looks like a number freshmen will figure in a tight race for the Rookie of the Year in the 44th Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) season.
Days after the impressive debuts of third overall pick Robert Bolick for Northport and seventh pick Abu Tratter for Blackwater, top pick CJ Perez and sixth pick Javee Mocon quickly followed with amazing debuts for Columbian and Rain or Shine, respectively.
The former NCAA Most Valuable Player Perez led Columbian to a major 124-118 upset of four-time Philippine Cup champion San Miguel Beer while Mocon also made heads turn in Rain or Shine’s 96-87 win over NLEX late Friday night at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.
Held to just two points in the first half, the Lyceum standout Perez erupted for 24 big points in the second half, lifting Columbian to its first ever Philippine Cup win over SMB.
“It’s a baptism of fire against SMB. There’s too much expectation and pressure. Thankfully, I managed to deliver,” said Perez who finished with 26 points, five rebounds, an assist and a block in 21 minutes of action.
“But it’s just not about me. It’s about the whole Columbian team. There’s still a long way to go and hopefully we can continue this.”
Mocon, his former NCAA rival from San Beda, also did not disappoint after being named by head coach Caloy Garcia as a steal from the stacked 2018 PBA Rookie Draft class.
“He might be the steal of the draft,” Garcia said after Mocon racked up 13 points and five rebounds in just 18 minutes of action.
“He usually plays the four-spot in the NCAA but I was surprised with his versatility with how the way he plays wing. He can defend guards too,” he said
The three-time NCAA champion and Finals MVP Mocon played down the hype, saying he still has a lot to learn especially in defending the top players in the PBA.
“I’m just gonna prove every day that I deserve all the praises of Coach Caloy. I will not stop learning,” said Mocon who limited NLEX star guard Kevin Alas to just 12 points and four rebounds.
“I’m looking forward to defending the top scorers here in the PBA.”
Earlier this week, second overall pick Bolick also erupted for 26 points on 10-of-12 shooting along with three rebounds and three assists to lead Northport into a dominating 117-91 win over Blackwater.
Despite the loss, seventh pick Tratter also proved to be a capable John Paul Erram replacement with 18 points, nine rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks being the anchor in the pain for the Elite.