Asia’s Best Basketball Player PERCY shoots his way to Eternity - By Elmo Rodrigopulle
|It is with profound sadness that I dedicate this column to one of my dearest buddies Percy Perera, undoubtedly the Best basketball shooter that the country produced , who passed away in Melbourne, Australia on August 6th.|
Percy who migrated with his family to Melbourne in 1984, used to make his usual pilgrimage to Sri Lanka to meet and greet his legion of friends and as usual have a good time, recalling adventures and escapades that was many of old.
Percy arrived in Sri Lanka in the first week of May, incidentally when I was in England covering the Sri Lanka cricket team’s tour. But as usual he called me to say that he will be around till the end of August and that we should meet and have our usual rendezvous.
Isn’t it said that - man proposes, god disposes -. And this saying was never better exemplified when Percy suddenly took ill. He was hospitalized and was diagonized as suffering from an acute illness.
But , as in Basketball, he rebounded and recovered and wove his way on the courts of social circles. He was cheerful as usual when on my return from England I visited him in hospital. We met and chatted about old times and he bid me goodbye promising to call me once he sees his medical team in Melbourne.
But the call came, but not from Percy but from his former St. Benedict’s College and Sri Lanka basketball Captain from Los Angeles Cosmas Mahagama Perera who jolted me with the news that our dear friend Percy would not be calling you, because he had to first answer his call from his creator and that Percy had passed away in a hospital in Melbourne.
Not only did the news numb and jolt me but it also shocked me and very many others. Our eyes were welled with tears. Here was Percy full of life, bubbling and bonhomie and all of a sudden walking off the Court, unannounced.
And then it took a few minutes for it to dawn on me, that that’s life and which death also kindled in me that solemn perennial hymn - why should we linger when Jesus is calling -. Percy who was a fine all rounder at cricket and a short distance runner in athletics, really showed his prowess at basketball.
He graduated from junior level and once he made it to the first team and came under the guidance of that wonderful coach Ram Suntheralingam, his talent began to ooze. His national basketball representation was automatic.
Thus began the era when basketball at the green, white and green school began to hit big time under the excellent leadership of Vijaya Silva another sharp shooter and Cosmas Perera an all court player of international class. Trophies came flooding to the school.
Percy was pencil slim. But was a bundle of energy and his shooing of baskets from every angle which brought points and trophies were truly remarkable. And amazing. And had to be seen to be believed.
Once he made it to the national team while playing for the Old Bens and again was fortunate to have has his Captain Cosmas. Percy’s fame began to grow. He was picked to play for the country in the 1966 Asian Games and what a sensation he became overnight. Playing in the exalted company of Cosmas Perera, C.Thurairaja, Jesudhasan, Daluwatte, Royden de Silva and Amaradasa to name a few he caused ripples at these Games by being adjudged the ‘Best Shooter’.
That was a great honour to the school, the Old Bens club and the country. But sadly little recognition came his way and that was the era when I covered basketball for the ‘Times of Ceylon’ and doing an article for the ‘Sunday Times’ on Percy’s rare achievement asked by another keen basketball and hockey fan Subbiah Muttiah who was Editor of the ‘Sunday Times’.
Percy also played Sara Trophy cricket for Saracens along with me and was a good all rounder. He bowled medium fast and in a game against the SSC he had a haul of six wickets.
When on his visits to Sri Lanka we would meet at our old haunt the Old Bens Sports Club and exercise our elbows and when I used to ask him to go easy, his answer was ‘Machan, you live only once’ - that was his credo.
We grew up in Kotahena and were a bunch of closely knitted friends - Kenneth, Cosmas, Edward, Patrick and Lakshman and we were all up to all the innocent mischief.
I can vouch for the fact that Percy enjoyed life to the full. We were also good billiards and snooker players and what games we enjoyed in the company of Leslie Lord, Teles Fernandopulle, Stanley Rodrigo and Anton Weerasinghe.
The next World Cup cricket tournament is to be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand and another dear friend of ours in Los Angeles Edward Sumanasekera told Percy and me that we should meet for a reunion in Melbourne during the series. But that meeting will never be.
Kenneth was instrumental in getting Jean and Percy together and Kenneth would always quote the bible and say that what Kenneth put together, let no man put asunder.
‘How sad it is. We were very close and can’t imagine that we will not see him for the rest of our lives. Percy was a shooter par excellence and ones that come once in a life time. His legacy will live on’, said Cosmas.
Another Old Ben basketball player emailing me from Canada Clive Fernando who was a boarder summed it all up when he wrote - Enjoy life. It has an expiry date -. Our deepest sympathies to his wife Jean (Jones), daughter Dilshie, son Chummy and all his dear ones. Let the soul of Percy who was a good soul rest in peace till we meet ‘on that beautiful shore where there is no parting,sighing and grieving.
By Elmo Rodrigopulle
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