MANILA, Philippines – So far in UAAP Season 81, the Rookie of the Year race is zeroed in on two budding stars: NU’s Dave Ildefonso and UST’s CJ Cansino.
And on Saturday afternoon, October 6, the young Tiger swung the momentum to his favor, at least for now.
With hulking big man Steve Akomo absent from the lineup for the second straight game, Cansino erupted for a monster double-double of 17 points and a career-high 17 rebounds in an 80-66 rout of the UE Red Warriors.
For those who are familiar with the 6-foot-2 swingman’s game, this is nothing new, as he was a consistent double-double threat down in the UAAP juniors ranks where he was last season's MVP.
Yet even if the seniors’ tournament is a whole different animal, Cansino still made it look easy.
As such, he earned the praises of multi-titled coach Aldin Ayo, who likened him to the man who helped him get his first collegiate championship.
“Good thing about CJ is when you say something to him, right away he responds. Lagi ko sinasabi sa kanya na gayahin niya si Rey Nambatac,” he said in the post-game presser. “Small man ‘yon, ‘di naman ganun kalakihan at kalakasan ‘yung katawan pero nakakailang rebounds ‘yun si Rey.”
(I always tell him that he should emulate Rey Nambatac. He’s a small man, he’s not that imposing but he was also good in rebounding.)
The 5-foot-10 Nambatac, who is now in the PBA with the Rain or Shine Elastopainters, was one of Ayo’s key cogs in the Letran Knights' NCAA Season 91 title run that snapped the five-peat of the dynastic San Beda Red Lions.
“Nag-17 points, 17 rebounds [si CJ] pero marami pa siyang kulang,” Ayo added. “Marami pang dapat i-trabaho sa kanya pero good thing he has a good attitude, he has the right character. He’s very willing to win. You have to admire the humility of that boy. He really wants to learn and he’s not content with what he has."
(CJ had 17 points and 17 rebounds but he still has a lot of work to do. But the good thing is he has a good attitude and the right character.)
In response, Cansino deflected all praises to his coach, crediting him for the opportunities he has been given his young Tigers.
“Coach gives us a lot of confidence pag dating sa game,” he said. “Sabi niya ‘Isa lang ang ‘di mawawala sa inyo, ‘yung kumpiyansa.’ Binibigay ni coach Aldin ‘yung kumpiyansa niya sa’min, basta tama ginagawa namin.”
(Coach gives us a lot of confidence heading to the game. He told us, 'There’s only one thing that you won’t lose, that’s confidence.' Coach Aldin always gives that confidence to us as long as we’re doing the right things.)
Despite a bad team record, Cansino’s debut season has been a rousing success so far, and he’s not scared of being the marked man next time around.
“Pinapanood ko yung last games ko,” he said. “Tinitignan ko kung ano pa yung mga kulang ko para in the next game, meron din akong pangontra sa game plan nila.”
(I’m watching my last games. I look at what I still lack so that in the next game, I also have a counter to their game plan.)
With great talent, great coaching and a grounded sense of his development, it’s not hard to see as early as now that Cansino’s climb up the basketball ranks will be a smooth and successful one. – Rappler.com