[PODCAST] At the Buzzer: A La Salle lookback with Mike Cortez


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MANILA, Philippines – In the latest episode of At the Buzzer, a Rappler Sports podcast, host Naveen Ganglani chats with former UAAP and PBA standout Mike Cortez about his long and successful basketball career.

Cortez shares stories on his current stint as coach for the St Benilde Blazers before recalling his legendary run as a champion De La Salle Green Archer from 1999-2002. 

Nicknamed “The Cool Cat,” Cortez reminisces on how intense La Salle’s practices were under head coach Franz Pumaren and how those training sessions became critical to the success their team achieved on a consistent basis. 

“The way we played the game, the real game, we would press the whole game, right? That’s how our practices were – every day,” he shares.

“Practices were really intense.” 

Cortez also opens up about the challenges they faced as La Salle’s title run came to an end in 2002 and the aftermath of the defeat. 

Cortez, who was selected No. 1 overall in the 2003 PBA Draft, then discusses his 16-year stint in the PBA, particularly the high of winning more titles and the low of suffering devastating injuries.

Holding no regrets on how his career unfurled, Cortez then enumerates the differences of today’s collegiate standouts from his time as a student-athlete.

Here is an excerpt from the podcast: 

Naveen: There’s a saying ang sarap maging Lasalista… do you feel the same way?

Mike: I wouldn’t change that experience for anything else. Like I told you, when I was in the States, I didn’t know anything about Philippine basketball, you know what I mean. Not until I came here in ’99 where I saw other teams, other schools and how their players play and how we play. It’s just different to me. 

I felt that we were fortunate to play for La Salle. It was a blessing for us to be part of that team. Playing for La Salle, I wouldn’t change it for anything else. I had good memories despite that one game (in 2002). That one game was not going to kill all the other good memories I had from ’99 all the way to 2002, we had a good run. I mean, things happen for a reason, man. So yeah, masarap maging Lasalista.

Naveen: Did you already have an idea entering the draft that you would go No. 1 overall? Did you know only the day of the draft, when your name was finally announced, or was it something that you had an idea even beforehand?

Mike: I was in the States from the end of the UAAP until the draft… it wasn’t until when I flew back in for the draft, maybe 3 or 4 days before, when I started hearing news: “Oh, you might go No. 1.” But for me, it didn’t really matter, you know what I mean? It was just a chance to get to the next level for me. – Rappler.com 

Check out the previous episodes: