Mapua’s CJ Isit grew up playing with Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph and Andrew Wiggins
Ceej Tantengco on Jul 18, 2016 10:25 AM
“We used to play together because we grew up in the same neighborhood." -- Mapua's CJ Isit
We knew Mapua Institute of Technology team captain CJ Isit learned to play ball in Canada, but we couldn’t have guessed that he once played with Tristan Thompson of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Cory Joseph, who won a championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014, and 2015 NBA Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“We used to play together because we grew up in the same neighborhood—Glen Shields, Vaughan [City]. It’s just above Toronto,” says Isit. Vaughan is the fifth-largest city in the Greater Toronto Area, home to a fast-growing and diverse population including around 9,000 people of Filipino origin.
Could Isit have guessed that his childhood playmates would grow up to join the NBA? “You know, it was so long ago that I don’t remember what it was like,” he admits. “But they’ve always been good. You could say they were on another level. Andrew would play above his age group. And Cory, after a while, did the same.”
Of course, Isit was pulling for Team Canada during the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament Finals held in Manila two weeks ago. If you watched the match between Canada and France, you might have seen the Mapuan guard in the lower box, cheering for the country where he was born.
“It’s sad because the team wasn’t complete,” says Isit. Notable omissions from Team Canada included Wiggins, who sat out due to commitments with the Timberwolves; and Kelly Olynyk of the Boston Celtics, who considered delaying surgery on his right shoulder to play in the OQT. He muses, “I think if they were complete, they would have won.”
If given the chance to play for either national team, would Isit play for Team Canada or Gilas Pilipinas?
The Fil-Canadian athlete takes his time before answering. “I love both countries equally…but I would pick Gilas,” he finally admits. “I’ve been to many Toronto Raptors games, who have one of the best fan bases in the NBA, so I know the love Canadians have for the game. But the Philippines is something else.”
“The passion and heart Filipinos have for the game is on another level, and to ever be part of something like that would be the ultimate blessing,” he continues. “And I’ve always been an underdog type of guy so Gilas would be more fitting. Heart over everything.”
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