Former NCAA MVPs CJ Perez, Calvin Oftana honored to win Asian Games gold with Gilas | NCAA Philippines

Fresh from their Asian Games stints, CJ Perez and Calvin Oftana went to the Filoil EcoOil Centre in San Juan to watch their alma mater compete in the NCAA Season 99.

The two former league MVPs could not help but assess how far they've come.

Perez, the MVP in Season 93, and Oftana, who won the Season 95 MVP plum, were honored and proud to be part of the 12-man Gilas Pilipinas team that conquered the Asiad stage to deliver the country's fourth gold medal in the quadrennial tournament.

The Filipinos exacted revenge against Jordan in the finals to end the Philippines' 61-year gold medal drought.

"'Yung grupo na 'yun, ibang klase [at] sobrang special kasi all veterans tsaka professional talaga. Most of them are my kuyas sa PBA pero they're there to guide me and guide the team, especially our head coach, coach Tim [Cone]," Oftana shared as he watched from the sidelines of the Lyceum-San Beda game on Sunday.

"Before that group was built, ang daming nangyari. May times na nga na dapat hindi na matutuloy 'yun. Sobrang saya kasi after 61 years, nakuha ulit natin 'yung medalya."

(That group is really different and special because all the veterans are pros. Most of them are my older brothers in the PBA but they're there to guide me and guide the team, especially our head coach, coach Tim. Before that group was built, there were a lot of things that happened. There were times that we would not push through. I'm happy that after 61 years, we got the gold medal again.)

Oftana was cut from the 2023 FIBA World Cup roster, but was reinstated by head coach Tim Cone for the Asian Games.

Perez, meanwhile, was a late addition after Calvin Abueva, Jason Perkins, Terrence Romeo, and Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser were not cleared by the organizers.

Despite these fallbacks, the two ballers said it's an honor to bring the Philippines back to the top.

"It's an honor na mabigay 'yung gold para sa Pilipinas. 'Yun din naman 'yung goal namin. We did out part as players," added Perez.

"I came late pero nag-trust pa rin sila sa akin na kaya ko maglaro kahit na late."

(It's an honor to give the gold to the Philippines. That was our goal and we did our part as players. I came in late but they still trusted me that I can still play.)

Aside from Perez and Oftana, other Gilas Pilipinas players who played in the NCAA were Kevin Alas, Scottie Thompson, and San Beda juniors product Arvin Tolentino.

—JKC, GMA Integrated News

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