It was an ugly end to a marvelous season for the Soaring Falcons. Season 74 saw the Soaring Falcons do it all. They flexed their dominance over FEU in the first round, they dispatched foes with consistency and composure, and they made their mark on college basketball history with the 9-10-11 game, stopping an elimination round sweep and ending their losing streak to Ateneo. They were winning hearts through heart and for a solitary moment, the then emerging Ateneo Dynasty was in trouble— until FEU intervened.
For the past years, while FEU and Ateneo were duking it out in the Finals, Adamson was slowly climbing its way into the spotlight. It wasn’t until Season 73 that they first made their mark, breaking into the Final Four, gaining a reputation as giant slayers with the way they ended FEU’s then on-going win streak with a buzzer beating tip in by Eric Camson. Following a solid pre-season that saw the Soaring Falcons make it to the PCCL Finals, Season 74 was supposed to be THE season for them.
At the heart of their success was Coach Leo Austria. A relatively modest name among coaches at the time. He had a few stints in the PBA and the now defunct PBL coaching Welcoat, seeing moderate success. His initial run with Adamson back in Season 69 saw them break into the Final Four for the first time working off the stellar play of that season’s MVP Ken Bono. Without him, Adamson once again dropped down to the cellar where they stayed until his return in Season 71.
Upon his return to Adamson with assistant coach Jing Ruiz, coach Leo Austria slowly rebuilt the program and developed them into the contenders they became. The core players, a back court tandem like none other— Lester Alvarez, a spit fire point guard whose ability to pull up from the top of the key for three pointers made him a nightmare to guard off screens. With him was Jerick Canada, a more traditional point guard whose main focus was setting up plays for his teammates.
With two of the best point guards at his disposal, coach Leo Austria led the Soaring Falcons to new heights. In one of his post-game interviews, coach Leo described what it was like having Lester and Jerick on his team as the ultimate luxury, not only because the level of play doesn’t drop when one goes in for the other, but also because he could swap them for situational play like choosing between offense and defense.
Yet in that final game of Season 74, Lester and Jerick were forced to share the floor. It was the first time that they were a real threat to break into the Finals and for the first time they were the favorites to win. But FEU had been there, done that, just a season ago going toe-to-toe with Ateneo in the Finals. The Tamaraws were also brandishing several potent weapons in the previous year’s MVP RR Garcia, that year’s rookie of the year Terrence Romeo and Gilas youth member Aldrech Ramos. FEU saw Adamson’s twice-to-beat advantage, scoffed at it and pulled a fast one on them in game one.
In game two there was a lot more urgency for the Soaring Falcons. FEU was out-hustling them on all fronts, forcing their backcourt to buckle under the pressure. In a bid to install some stability, Adamson ran the second half with a three guard lineup, Lester, Jerick and Alex Nuyles were needed just to keep the ball on their end.
For a while it worked, but the damage had been done. It was looking very bad for the Falcons as FEU was getting any shot they wanted while they were struggling to score. With little over 3 minutes left in the game, the Soaring Falcons were staring down a 65 – 74 deficit looking like the game was out of reach. Eric Camson missed a mid range jumper which was rebounded by Lester Alvarez. Alvarez quickly pulled out of the paint to reset and found Canada on the left wing. With time running out on them, Canada pulled up from three knocking down the shot and getting back on defense. They successfully trapped the inbound receiver who threw a bad pass that was picked off by Jan Colina. Alvarez received the skip pass who quickly found Canada open at the corner. The closeout was late, Canada had already put up the shot— bang! It was the Jerick Canada show!
What was once a seemingly insurmountable lead was cut down to 3 points, forcing FEU to call a timeout to stop the momentum of the Falcons. Unfortunately the momentum did stop, and the Tamaraws did the improbable, climbing back from a twice-to-win disadvantage to try to set up a rematch of the previous year’s Finals (spoiler alert: FEU lost again).
In those few game seconds, the world was treated to a preview of the greatness that would come from the tiny body frame of Jerick Canada, the captain who would not let his ship sink without a fight. Those seconds of resolve, the defiance that went into that last ditch effort took every ounce of willpower he had left, but it simply wasn’t enough, yet. The image of the smallest player on the court putting up the biggest fight, this was the image Jerick Canada burned into the minds of Adamson fans everywhere.
It wasn’t long until Jerick would see the fruits of his labor.
For the 2012 ASEAN Basketball League season, the Indonesia Warriors took a chance on Canada and he did not disappoint. As a rookie in the ABL Jerick averaged 8.2 points, 4.1 assists and 1.5 steals a game. He was doing what he did best, running the point. Even if it meant not getting flashy plays. Even if it meant not getting the stats. Playing alongside Stanley Pringle, Jerick Canada tasted his first championship after beating two Filipino teams in the playoffs, first the Air Asia Patriots, and then the San Miguel Beermen in the Finals, edging out his former mentor Leo Austria who was an assistant for San Miguel at the time.
The following season, Jerick suited up for the Indonesia Warriors yet again as they climbed their way back to the ABL Finals. Unfortunately, Canada had to sit the series out due to an injury and could only watch on as his former mentor Leo Austria, now coach of the San Miguel Beermen, executed a coaching master class against his team, earning the Beermen their first ABL championship.
From here the legend of Jerick Canada began to grow, slowly improving his game until getting a shot at redemption in 2014 with Hi-Tech Bangkok City. Reunited with a familiar face in coach Jing Ruiz who became head coach of the Bangkok team, Canada found himself once again in the Finals for the 3rd time in 3 seasons of playing in the ABL.
Once the playoffs started, Canada became a beacon of stability for Hi-Tech Bangkok, running the point position like a tactical spotter, locating open teammates, feeding them the ball and knocking down shots whenever the defense thought they could cheat off him. In what was a frantic up and down paced series for everyone else, Canada was cool, calm and collected as he didn’t rush possessions, surveying the floor before dishing out dimes to his teammates.
Together with fellow Adamson alumnus Patrick Cabahug, Jerick Canada put on a master class on how to be a court general posting 19.5 points, 4.5 assists and 3.5 steals a game during the playoffs, solidifying his legend status in the ABL and earning him Finals MVP honors in his second ABL championship.
On October 10, 2019, Jerick Canada was immortalized as one of the top 10 greatest players to ever play in the ASEAN Basketball League, a high honor considering the other players on that list and big names that have also played in the ABL— June Mar Fajardo, Stanley Pringle, Christian Standhardinger and Chris Banchero just to name a few. His greatness comes, not from superior size, athleticism or skill, it comes from how he plays his heart out and how he refuses to let a bad situation take the fight out of him.
The smallest guy on the court, putting up the biggest fight.