The first moment of yours that I have etched into my memory was one of you on the ground by the baseline, screaming.
This wasn’t a picture of you in pain. This was one of you letting off a passionate howl after drilling your first ever 4-point play in your first game in the UAAP Seniors Division. It was a serendipitous moment; It didn’t matter that your team was down and would eventually lose that game because, with that triumphant scream, you provided UST fans a feeling that they had been deprived of for the last two years: Hope.
UST is the winningest UAAP basketball school in history, yet they had totaled just 4 wins in the 24 games they had played since Kevin Ferrer and a slew of other mainstays graduated in Season 78. Those woeful years were marred with coaching controversies and key player departures, topped off by the understandable apathy of what is usually one of the most enviable fanbases in the entire league.
Despite the bleak outlook of the team, there you were on the opening weekend of Season 81 donning the black and gold, and dropping 20 points and 10 rebounds. You proceeded by improving every single game, growing more and more comfortable as a facilitator and confident as a scorer. You silenced doubters with your defensive excellence, acting as a free safety for an import-less defense that desperately needed some sort of dynamism.
You put up monster numbers: 17 points and 17 rebounds in a win over UE, 16 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists in a win over UP, and the first recorded triple-double by a rookie when you dropped 20 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists in another win over UE.
Slowly the UST crowd crept back into the arenas to support the school and to watch you－ their symbol of newfound hope － lead them. Along with them came the pool of UAAP fans, pundits and casuals alike, swooned by your game. You provided excitement to the entire UAAP community by intertwining the future with the here and now.
That was, until last Sunday, your 13th game. You had come darting from the other end of the court, having activated your one-man fastbreak badge just as you have numerous times all year. But this time, the play did not end with a graceful lay-up or nifty assist. It ended where it had begun: with you on the ground by the baseline, screaming.
It’s in moments such as this which remind you that the most frightening part about hope is that it’s uncertain. Disaster can strike at any moment, and whatever hope you thought you had could disappear instantly.
However, in the ensuing silence following your injury up until the aftermath of the announcement of its severity, not one person has expressed doubt about your future. Because it is no longer simply with hope that the UAAP basketball world looks at you, CJ Cansino. It is with certainty.
Certainty that you are not just a rookie, but a bonafide star in the UAAP.
Certainty that you will overcome this setback and return to the gazelle that terrorized every single transition defense in the league in Year 1.
Certainty that you will make a full comeback to lead this new era of the UST Growling Tigers.
Get well soon, CJ. The entire UAAP community cannot wait to see you back on the court.