How UP recruited CJ Cansino to become a Fighting Maroon

Close to two days before news became public about CJ Cansino’s departure from the UST Growling Tigers, those in college basketball coaching circles were already aware the skilled and athletic 6-foot-2 standout would be looking for a new home, sources close to the situation told Rappler. 

A few hours after Cansino released a public statement explaining he was kicked off UST’s varsity team on Friday, August 21, he met with UP Maroons head coach Bo Perasol and team manager Agaton Uvero in Ortigas. (READ: Cansino breaks silence on UST departure, says he got ‘kicked off’)

By then, it seemed like Cansino was already set on where he wanted to continue his college basketball career: University of the Philippines.

Mukhang decided na siya (It looks like he was decided) when we talked to him,” Perasol said on Saturday, August 22. 

“It was just us who convinced him, in my opinion.” (READ: CJ Cansino joins UP Maroons after shock UST exit)

Perasol admits he only got to speak with Cansino on Friday, but in the days prior, UP management already got in touch with the now former Growling Tiger and his advisers. 

Before Cansino publicly confirmed he left the UST “bubble” in Sorsogon, he already informed interested suitors that he was no longer with coach Aldin Ayo’s squad, according to sources. 

Many interested universities reached out, including Ateneo (which might have been the first team to reach out), La Salle, Adamson, Letran, and San Beda, sources said. A few coaches of those teams got to speak with him over the phone.

However, the “decisive” Cansino immediately knew which suitors he wanted to prioritize.

“He had a long (515-kilometer) drive from Sorsogon to Manila,” explained Perasol.

Nakapagisip na talaga siya, nakapagtanong na rin siya sa mga kaibigan niya or mga advisers niya kung saan siya dapat, but he already narrowed down his choices.”

Ang choices niya,” added the head coach, “konti lang.”

(He really thought about it, he already asked his friends and advisers where he should go, but he already narrowed down his choices. He only had a few choices.)

Legacy team

Perasol also believes that during Cansino’s journey back home, players of the Fighting Maroons privately reached out to him in an effort to convince him to transfer to UP.

On Twitter, two prominent Fighting Maroons did that publicly: Ricci Rivero and Juan Gomez de Liaño. (LOOK: UAAP, NCAA stars launch CJ Cansino recruitment war)

The relationship between Cansino and Gomez de Liaño is important to note, since the two of them share a trainer: Better Basketball PH’s Patrick Tancioco. 

In fact, Perasol was already enamored by Cansino years ago before he entered the UAAP seniors division, when he saw Cansino train with Gomez de Liaño at UP’s new practice facility at the Epsilon Chi Center in Diliman.

Doon ako nagkaroon ng interest sa kanya, but I knew UST talaga ‘yung choice niya,” said the coach.

(That’s when I got interested in him, but I knew his choice was really UST.)

Cansino, a former UAAP juniors MVP, opted to stay at UST, where he felt his heart belonged.

This time, UP was Cansino’s choice of destination. 

Once their meeting began, Perasol made something clear to the blue-chip recruit he hoped would be added to the program’s deep collection of talents for both the present and future.

Noong nag-umpisa ang meeting, ang usapan namin (When our meeting started, we agreed), ‘We’re not going to talk about your past, we’re not going to talk about what happened [with UST], we’re not going to talk about who did what.’”

Instead, this was Perasol’s pitch:

“‘We are inviting you to be part of the future of the UP Fighting Maroons.’”

Perasol, who is seeking his first UAAP title, also challenged Cansino to be part of a legacy team that can end UP’s now 34-year-old championship drought. 

However, Cansino was also told that he wouldn’t have to lead the team by himself, not when UP’s future is secured with commitments from the likes of Carl Tamayo, Gerry Abadiano, Malick Diouf, and Joel Cagulangan, among others.

So fast

Once it became clear both sides wanted to team up, Perasol and Uvero handed Cansino the maroon jacket which he was wearing on the picture included in the press release on Friday announcing he would transfer to UP.

Not long after the announcement, many on social media and college basketball circles wondered why it was so quick for Cansino to find a new home. 

According to Perasol, that was due to two reasons. 

It’s understandable na mag-iisip talaga ‘yung iba, especially iisipin nila na mabilis and all of that, but there are factors kasi, and there are also considerations sa kanya,” he said.

(It’s understandable that others would think why it all happened so fast, but there are factors and considerations on his end.)

First, according to the head coach, was that Cansino didn’t have a team or university after departing from UST, and wanted to change that right away, especially after his long drive home gave him the time to do research, speak with advisers, and reflect on the next chapter of his career.

Second, UP was in a rush to have Cansino sign up in their Varsity Athletic Admission System (VAAS). With the deadline for applications forms to be submitted the same day, Perasol and Uvero handed Cansino a form to fill out. 

Cansino, though, isn’t technically enrolled yet since the VAAS committee will review the application before submitting its recommendation for approval of the UP Diliman Chancellor. Once approved, that’s the only time he can enroll.

Amid this development, UST also now faces queries from the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) for their alleged training in Sorsogon since June, which may may be a violation of the government’s community quarantine rules.  (READ: UAAP awaits UST internal probe on alleged ‘bubble’ practices)

Bo the recruiter

Among the stream of reactions about Cansino’s transfer to UP was the opinion of many who deemed Perasol as one of the best – if not the best – recruiter in college basketball today. 

Many Fighting Maroons, both past and current, have admitted that Perasol’s fatherly-like approach with his players helps establish the kind of trust that makes student-athletes want to play for a coach.

Perasol, however, stated, “it’s not about me,” because in his opinion, “the recruiter will only be as good as the one he is recruiting for.”

The 48-year-old mentor explained that student-athletes are aware studying in UP is a “privilege,” given the university’s low admission rate. 

According to Perasol, there are also only 300 to 400 new student-athletes who are enrolled every year in all branches, when accounting for all sports, which makes each spot special.  

“You don’t have to tell them about how exciting the community is,” added the head coach.

“And then the third part, what I always tell them, they will have a chance to finally end our [championship] drought."

Perasol believes this challenge, which he often brings up during recruiting, provides something different compared to other programs.

Ikaw, kung magaling ka na player… gagawa ka ng paraan para magkaroon ka ng opportunity to be part of that legacy. 'Yun lang naman ang pitch ko lagi,” he said.

(If you’re a good player, you’d try to find a way to have the opportunity to be part of that legacy. That’s always my pitch.)

“One of the best pitch there is, they’re excited to be part of the squad that’s going to end it, because I make it a point to challenge them.”

And what do the recruits usually respond to that?

Excited siya na, oo nga ‘no (He's excited like, 'yeah, that's right').”

Now, CJ Cansino takes on that challenge. –