CJ Cansino will fill in the gaps for the star-studded Fighting Maroons

They’ve been jokingly dubbed the UP Star Magic Maroons. CJ Cansino’s arrival has done nothing but strengthen the traction of that nickname.

After a drama-filled 24 hours which involved provincial bubbles, Batang Gilas batchmates going on a recruiting spree, and an Ildefonso barking like a dog on Twitter, Cansino is officially a UP Fighting Maroon. This is another addition to what has been a phenomenal recruiting haul by Coach Bo Perasol; all of this in the middle of a pandemic, mind you. Major props has to be given to Perasol, his staff, UP management, and alumni support.

It’s one thing to acquire talent, but it’s another thing to turn that haul into a championship. Perasol knows that, especially after going through a similar ordeal when he was head coach of the Ateneo Blue Eagles. Remember his epic recruiting class of 2014 which had multiple MVPs and elite high school prospects? It was eye-popping. It was exciting. But it didn’t lead to a championship. That’s the harsh reality of sports; having talent isn’t enough.

Which begs the question: How does CJ Cansino fit into the championship hopes of the UP Fighting Maroons? While he is part of this great recruiting haul, how does his play blend into the basketball program the Maroons are building?

It shouldn’t take an expert to determine that Cansino is a star player. You don’t even have to actively follow basketball. Just take one look at how many retweets he’s garnered just because of his decision and you’ll already know that he’s a big deal.

What makes him a big deal is what separates him from other elite prospects in the UAAP. Players of his caliber are expected to need the ball in order to produce. That’s one of the problems the Fighting Maroons faced this past Season 82. They had too many players who needed the ball in order to contribute for the team. The thing with Cansino is he doesn’t need the ball in order to be an effective basketball player. He’s a low-maintenance star; the type any kind of coach would want in their basketball team.

Despite struggling to regain Mythical Five-caliber form during the most of Season 82, Cansino actually gave us a glimpse of how he could play moving forward in the UST Growling Tigers’ Finals matchup against Ateneo. He averaged four points on 21.4 percent field goal shooting, nine rebounds, on top of four assists and 0.5 turnovers per game. His scoring wasn’t great – you could even say it was downright terrible – but he was still able to contribute in other facets of the game. He positioned himself well around the rim for offensive rebounds. He was always ready to make the correct play whenever he’d catch the ball off the bounce in UST’s half court attack.

He didn’t need to score in UST because he had Rhenz Abando, Soulemane Chabi Yo, and Mark Nonoy to do that. What he did best was fill in the gaps to the best of his ability. Whether it was acting as a secondary ball-handler or an option in the corners for drive and kicks, Cansino did what his team needed him to do. His scoring may have not been on-par, but the rest of his game faired pretty well. That’s testament of his high IQ and character. Rust or injuries can’t take qualities like that away from his game.

Expect him to bring the same versatility to the Fighting Maroons, as he’ll be playing with high-caliber offensive weapons such as Malick Diouf, Carl Tamayo, and Gerry Abadiano (and possibly the Gomez de Liano brothers?) in Season 84. Since we’ve always compared Perasol’s stint in UP to what he did in Ateneo, here’s a potential model Cansino may follow once he dons the maroon jersey: Chris Newsome.

Now before Ateneans form a mob outside my house, that’s not to say Cansino plays anything like Newsome (Cansino probably wishes he had Newsome’s hops though). The best comparison you can make between the two is the role they’ll be taking on for their teams.

They’re both monster second or third options on championship-caliber teams. They can be counted on to score when the team needs to, but they’re at their best when they’re moving without the basketball while doing the little things at a really high level. For every Kiefer Ravena or Gerry Abadiano, you need a Newsome and a Cansino. Players like them are part of building a championship team.

It’s one thing to have a star player and it’s another thing to use him properly. If you’re a fan of the Fighting Maroons, you have to hope Cansino is maximized based on his strengths and isn’t just asked to stay parked in the corner while their star player iso their way to a potential game winner. That would be an insult not only to Cansino’s talent but also for the title aspirations of the UP community. Nowhere to go but UP? Then why not aim for the stars and take the proper steps to win that championship Diliman has been longing for years now.

That’s how good Cansino is. That’s how good UP is. They’re a star-studded team just added an elite talent who can do all the little things that win championships. Use Cansino properly and you’re a step closer to having a bonfire with a trophy to celebrate about.