UAAP Juniors MVP frontrunner CJ Cansino wants in on 2023 Gilas roster


MANILA, Philippines - In the early morning of January 5, Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes posted on Twitter his tentative pool for the national team which will represent and host the 2023 FIBA World Cup.

Filipino high school and college prospects aged 16 to 25 years old rounded up the tentative 23-member pool – keyword being “tentative.”

In Reyes’ tweet, he immediately put the disclaimer “By no means final,” which is more than enough motivation for University of Santo Tomas (UST) Tiger Cubs swingman CJ Cansino. And after today’s game, Cansino may just have stored enough fire to unleash in the coming years.

In the 2nd game of the UAAP Season 80 Juniors tournament’s 2nd round opening day, the undefeated Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eaglets rose to 8-0 by systematically annihilating the 3rd-place Cubs (5-3), 78-54.

Led by a balanced attack of newly-selected #23for23 pool member Kai Sotto (11 points, 12 rebounds, 5 blocks), Dave Ildefonso (20 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists), SJ Belangel (13 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists) and Joaqui Manuel (11 points, 12 rebounds, 3 steals), UST was simply outmatched on both ends of the floor. The Eaglets held the Cubs to 27% shooting as a team as they coasted to the easy victory.

Still, Cansino went down swinging, posting 16 points and 12 rebounds on just 6-of-20 shooting while blanking his 6 attempts from three. Only Vince Dolendo (10 points) also scored in double-digits for UST.

It’s no secret why Cansino is the frontrunner Most Valuable Player candidate in Season 80. In a report by ABS-CBN Sports, Cansino has tallied 100.57 statistical points (SPs) so far after the first round of Season 80 – with averages of 27.6 points, 14.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.7 steals. The 7-foot-1 Sotto trailed him big as his runner-up, recording only 74.43 SPs on averages of 12.9 points, 12.7 boards and a league-high 4.9 blocks.

But due to his monstrous and prized height coupled with his all-around talent, the gigantic media sensation is the kid who got the nod in the first roster of the Gilas pool. Cansino, being only 6-foot-1, has to contend with a lot of more polished and recognized guards such as Robert Bolick, CJ Perez, Paul Desiderio, UAAP Seniors basketball champion Matt Nieto and Arizona State University standout Remy Martin.

But all Cansino needs is a chance to prove himself, and an audience to witness what he can bring to the table.

“Isang blessing ‘yung makasama para i-represent ‘yung Pilipinas, “said the 17-year-old. “Siyempre ibibigay ko yung best ko para makapasok ‘dun sa 2023 [pool] na ‘yun. Isang karangalan na makapasok at ma-represent ‘yung bansa natin.” (“It’s a blessing to be included to represent the Philippines. Of course, I’d give my best so I can get in that 2023 pool. It’s an honor to be included and to represent the country.”)

Despite the desire to be selected as an individual for Gilas, he’s not really celebrating the news of his impending acceptance of the league’s highest individual award, especially if it doesn’t translate to wins for UST.

“Siyempre grateful ako na ‘nung first round, maganda ‘yung ipinakita ko pero sana magtuluy-tuloy hanggang sa makapasok kami ng Final 4,” he said. “Bonus na lang sa’kin ‘yung MVP at ang goal ko talaga ay makapasok sa finals at makuha ‘yung championship.” (“Of course, I’m grateful that in the first round, I had a great showing but hopefully that continues until we get into the Final 4. Winning the MVP award is only a bonus for me and my true goal is to enter the finals and win the championship.”)

A natural scorer and unnaturally proficient rebounder with a team-oriented personality? What’s not to like, Coach Chot? –