MANILA, Philippines — CJ Cansino is ready to lead the University of the Philippines one last time as he makes a comeback from an ACL injury in the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament.
The fit-again guard is grateful to be able to continue playing basketball after overcoming his second ACL injury last year in the Fighting Maroons’ historic title run in Season 84, where he played through pain and hit a clutch three-pointer in Game 3 against Ateneo to end a 36-year title drought.
“I’m so happy not only because of the UAAP but I will be able to play basketball again. I can continue doing my childhood dream again,” Cansino told reporters in Filipino.
Cansino was sidelined in Season 85 and couldn’t help his team in its championship defense as the Blue Eagles exacted a sweet revenge in December to reclaim the title.
The senior Fighting Maroon vowed to come back stronger after the loss, and he was able to show his tremendous progress when he steered UP to a FilOil championship.
“I can feel the pressure and excitement. I am having mixed feelings [this season] but I am so excited to play,” said Cansino, who suffered his first ACL injury in 2018 during his rookie year with the University of Santo Tomas.
The bigger challenge awaits Cansino in the UAAP when they try to reclaim the crown in his last dance as he also needs to lead a young squad, which lost key players Carl Tamayo, James Spencer, and Xavier Lucero.
“It’s a huge challenge to lead a young squad. They still have a lot to learn but at the same time, they are excited. I’m just happy that they always listen,” he said.
Cansino will lead a bunch of newcomers bannered by Francis Lopez, Sean Alter, Chico Briones, Seven Gagate, Luis Pablo, and transferees Jan Felicilda and Reyland Torres.
“So far, it’s okay for me to lead them because my other teammates are helping me to lead our rookies. All of them are easy to guide because they are blue-chip recruits and they know what they are capable of. We appreciate them for that,” he said.
Cansino is not alone in leading the reloaded UP squad as holdovers MVP Malick Diouf, JD Cagulangan, Harold Alarcon, and Terrence Fortea are on his side in coach Goldwin Monteverde’s quest to bring back the championship to Diliman.
UP opens its Season 86 campaign against Adamson on Sunday, 4 p.m., at Mall of Asia Arena.