“COOL CAT” AT EASE WITH DUAL ROLES
WEARING two hats in a game may befuddle some players, but not Mike Cortez.
Air21’s premier guard even appeared to be entirely comfortable in his dual roles as facilitator and scorer, helping power the Express to back-to-back wins in the week that was and earning for himself the Accel-PBA Press Corps Player of the Week for the period March 18 to 24.
In victories over defending champion San Mig Coffee and GlobalPort, the man dubbed as “Cool Cat” was the most consistent backup to superlative import Michael Dunigan, with averages of 13.5 points and 6.0 assists while playing both guard positions.
Foremost among those glad for Cortez is Air21 coach Franz Pumaren.
“Right now we are not only asking him to run the team but to score also,” related Pumaren of the 32-year-old, the top pick overall in the 2003 Draft. “That’s why once in a while we are using him as a 2-guard.”
More proof is the fact Cortez has laced his recent performances with 6.5 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 1.0 block with only 2.0 turnovers in just a little over 35 minutes of action.
The former De La Salle U star displayed his versatility in an 87-82 victory over the Mixers, when he backstopped Dunigan’s 25 points and 20 rebounds with 13 points, six rebounds, as many assists and three steals.
In the course of a come-from-behind 87-72 victory over the Batang Pier last Saturday, Cortez tallied 14 points, seven rebounds and six assists to help prop Dunigan’s 22 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists and point the Express to their fourth straight win.
Those all-around games fashioned over tough opponents prompted the scribes to choose him over fellow playmaker LA Tenorio, who clipped 16.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists as Barangay Ginebra also notched two wins to stretch its own streak to four.
Air21 now has an even 5-5 slate and, helped along by recent developments, is lodged in a tie for fourth-running spot and closer to a second straight playoffs appearance.
Cortez is sure to point the way. (NC)
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.