MANILA, Philippines – In the upcoming podcast episode of At the Buzzer, Rappler talks to former La Salle Green Archers great Mike Cortez about his successful career in the UAAP.
Cortez, who won two championships with the Green Archers during their famous four-peat title run, pulled the curtain back on a number of topics, including La Salle’s legendary difficult practices that helped pave the way for them to rule the UAAP for nearly half a decade.
“Sometimes when you win, you get a big head, you forget to do the little things, but every day in practice, I can say – from ’99 to 2002 – we got after each other,” Cortez said during the nearly 50-minute episode.
“That was kind of the culture we wanted to build for the future Green Archers.”
Cortez, who sat out in 1999 to serve residency, explained that the number of talents La Salle had gave everyone in the team little room for error during head coach Franz Pumaren’s tough practice sessions.
“My first year, ’99, it was Don [Allado] and Dino [Aldeguer] who really led the team. They set a precedent for how practices were, and Mon Jose, Willie Wilson, those guys, man.
“The way we played the game, the real game, we would press the whole game, right? That’s how our practices were – every day.”
Another star in those La Salle teams was superb shooter Ren-Ren Ritualo, who won 4 titles with DLSU and whose jersey is retired in campus.
“When we reached the game, it seemed easier for us,” explained Cortez.
“We always almost felt a little relieved, because, ‘Oh, now I don’t have to go against Ren-Ren; I don’t have to chase Ren-Ren around. Now I don’t have to go against Mon Jose, who’s top 5 all-time defender in the UAAP. Oh, I don’t have to go against Dino Aldeguer, who’s [smart].’
“Practices were really intense.”
Cortez, who considered La Salle as the “best in-shape team” during their title run, said the Archers wanted a program where “working hard” and “getting after each other” every day was a habit.
“And when you weren’t pulling your weight, we’d let you know. We [had] aces in our team,” he added.
“Coach Franz had this thing where we would have to run our plays – 5 on 0 – and if one guy didn’t remember the play, the whole team would run – except for that guy. So you can just imagine how all other 16 guys felt with one guy just watching us run.”
During the podcast, Cortez also discussed getting a tattoo before the UAAP opening, how it felt to be among the popular boys in campus as they were winning championships, what happened against Ateneo in the 2002 season, and his successful 16-year career in the PBA, where he was a No. 1 overall pick. – Rappler.com