“We’re on our way up”: CJ Isit talks Mapua’s strong start, new battle cry
Ceej Tantengco on Jul 16, 2016 04:05 PM
#CardsUP! Isit decided to use the hashtag for the Cardinals’ opening day battle against the JRU Heavy Bombers, without realizing it would catch on in the Mapua community.
Two years ago, the Mapua Institute of Technology Cardinals were the bottom-ranked team in the league. Last year, Coach Atoy Co’s squad soared to third place. And this time, they’ve kicked off NCAA Season 92 with a strong 4-0 start.
Team captain CJ Isit says the unblemished record doesn’t add to the pressure. “Actually, it’s the opposite—it builds us up more. I’m just happy we got the ball moving early on,” explains the guard.
A video of the Top 10 Best Plays from the first two weeks of games was aired during halftime of yesterday’s game. You’ve got two from Mapua: a two-handed slam by Nigerian import Allwell Oraeme, plus a no-look assist by Cebuano guard Darrell Shane Menina.
Isit is all praises for Oraeme: “He’s a workhorse. I’m speechless.” Last year, Oraeme earned the Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, and Defensive Player of the Year awards, plus a spot on the Mythical Five. “I’m just happy that after winning all the individual awards last year, he didn’t get complacent,” adds Isit. “He’s still working hard.”
Everyone’s pulling his weight in practice, he says. It’s hard to single out who the most hardworking person on the team is because one guy’s workout turns into an invitation for the rest of the team to join.
Meanwhile, Coach Atoy Co says Menina was already capable of those creative moves back when he first recruited the guard in Cebu. Last season, Co described Menina as the kind of player with a competitive streak. “Kahit hindi mo sabihan ‘yan, may apoy na,” he said. Despite this, Isit says Menina has yet to show his full range this season.
“He hasn’t been playing to the best of his abilities yet, but I’m glad he’s able to contribute,” says Isit. “As guards, we’re the extension of our coach. A lot is expected of us.”
Indeed. A sick Oraeme didn’t play in their last match against a much-improved EAC Generals, and Co said it would be a good test for the rest of the team to prove that they weren’t dependent on their star big man. They escaped with a win after a tight match with 12 lead changes. After the game, Isit tweeted that it didn’t feel like a victory but they’ll take it—and work harder to do better next time.
Officially, the school cheer is “Viva Mapua” but if you’ve been on Twitter during Mapua games lately, you’ll notice a new battle cry: #CardsUP.” Isit decided to use the hashtag for the Cardinals’ opening day battle against the JRU Heavy Bombers, without realizing it would catch on in the Mapua community.
Isit says it has a double meaning. “Cards up: you place your cards face up to show what you’ve got,” he explains. “And Cards up: we’re on our way up.”
Ceej Tantengco is an NCAA Courtside Reporter. Catch the games every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday on ABS-CBN Sports + Action or livestream here.
Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @ceejtheday