MANILA, Philippines—From being the Most Valuable Player in the UAAP juniors division, CJ Cansino has made an almost seamless transition to the collegiate level.
The star rookie of University of Santo Tomas is averaging 14.28 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 2.85 assists per game in the first round of UAAP Season 81 -- superb numbers for any player, and even more so for a freshman.
Even Cansino is surprised that he has been performing so well in the seniors level. Against a loaded University of the Philippines team on Wednesday, the rookie appeared to be the best player on the floor for long stretches.
He finished with 16 points on 5-of-6 shooting -- including two triples -- along with 10 boards, 7 assists, and 2 steals. With him leading the way, the Growling Tigers routed the Fighting Maroons, 86-72.
“Oo, siyempre nagulat ako,” said Cansino when asked if he was surprised at how quickly he adopted to the collegiate level of basketball.
Yet at the same time, Cansino already knew what to expect when he started competing in the UAAP seniors division -- and this was largely due to the advice given to him by UST’s veteran trio of Marvin Lee, Renzo Subido, and Embons Bonleon.
“Grabe ‘yung turo sa amin ng mga beterano,” Cansino revealed.
“Sabi nila, lagi nila kaming kinakausap na hindi biro itong UAAP na papasukin niyo. So sa practice pa lang, pina-practice na nila kami na ganito kapag nag-laro na tayo. So pagdating ng game, handang-handa na talaga kami.
“Nagpapasalamat kami sa mga beterano talaga.”
Cansino, who averaged 24.6 points and 12.9 rebounds per game for the UST Tiger Cubs last season, knew he made the right choice of university because of the mentorship that he is now getting from these veterans.
“Kapag mali, kausapin talaga nila kami agad na, 'Ganito dapat ang gagawin mo, hindi ito 'yung dapat na gagawin mo.' Kaya sobrang thankful ako na napunta ako sa kanila as a rookie,” Cansino beamed.
Given his superb numbers -- and UST’s better-than-expected 3-4 win-loss record -- there is no doubt that Cansino should be among the front-runners for rookie of the year honors -- with National University’s Dave Ildefonso shaping up to be his primary competition.
For Cansino, however, the top-rookie award is the least of his concerns.
“Sabi ko, extra na lang 'yun, achievement na lang siguro, papasalamat na lang ako kay God na binigay niya sa akin 'yun, if mapupunta sa akin,” he said.
“Pero ang goal ko talaga this season is makapasok kami ng final 4, for the community, for UST kasi grabe ang suporta nila sa amin. So 'yun talaga ang goal ko, hindi 'yung rookie of the year.”
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.