Get ready to hear the Tiger Cubs growl once again

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Feb 11, 2017 01:41 PM
Get ready to hear the Tiger Cubs growl once again
LONG TIME, NO SEE. With promising CJ Cansino and versatile Inand Fornillos set to be back, UST is nothing but hopeful for a return to relevance next season.

University of Sto. Tomas officially bowed out of contention in the UAAP 79 Juniors Basketball Tournament last Thursday.

Still, head coach Chris Cantonjos remained upbeat as he wrapped up his first season at the helm. “Maganda ang nilaro ng mga bata compared to previous years,” he expressed.

Indeed, the Tiger Cubs’ 6-8 record is their best five years. It also included a big-time upset of contending Far Eastern University-Diliman.

Moreover, the Espana-based squad was still fighting for its life until the end of the elimination round – something it hasn’t done since the heydays of Kevin Ferrer and Alvin Ungria.

Without a doubt, it was no coincidence that UST improved its performance with the entry of school legend Cantonjos. Reflecting on his maiden season in the Juniors, he said, “I think, naintindihan na ng mga bata kung anong gusto namin.”

He then continued, “Na-feel na ng mga bata na ganito pala maglaro nag-eenjoy.”

Inand Fornillos, who could compare this year’s team from last, seconded the statement of his coach. “Ang dinala ni coach, motivation kung paano manalo. Kasi last year, kulang yung fire namin na maglaro,” he said.

Cantonjos, a one-time MVP as a Growling Tiger, also had a positive on first-year player CJ Cansino.

“Nung una, natatakot and may nerbyos pa po ako. Nung second round, dun ko na po binuhos yung alam kong kulang ko,” the rookie shared. “Sa tulong ng teammates and coaches ko, nagkataon lang din naman po na sa akin na napunta yung bola.”

With the full faith of his mentor, Cansino improved his numbers of 9.9 points and 6.4 rebounds in the first round to averages of 13.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2.3 assists after two rounds. This includes a string of 20-point games in January.

Reflecting on his rookie year, Cansino was nothing but proud of how far he has come. “Galing po kasi ako sa ‘di kilalang school (La Salle-Araneta) kaya nagulat din po akong ganito yung ibibigay sa aking role. Pero sinabi na rin naman po nila yun kaya kinuha ko lang yung opportunity,” he said.

Clearly, Cansino’s has walked the same path as his coach who has now found a home after four years in unfamiliar territory. “Galing ako sa Women’s and nung una kong taon dun, tanong ko sa sarili ko, ‘Bakit ako napunta rito?’ Kaya nung bigla akong tinawagan ng UST para mag-coach sa boys, wala na akong isip-isip pa,” he shared.

He then continued, “Sinabi ko talaga sa kanila (team management), ‘Yung forte ko talaga, mag-coach sa lalaki.’”

With Espana’s high school program back on track, Cantonjos had one promise for his alma mater. “Next year, almost half yung mawawala kaya mag-start kami ng early. Kasi next year, I promise na mapuputa kami sa Final Four,” he said.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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