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Franz Pumaren had his wish – that of getting his long-time prized guard Mike Cortez – granted.
Siot Tanquingcen finally got an energetic big man in young Yousef Taha, a player who can shore up
Ginebra’s small frontline.
For the two coaches, the trade was a win-win situation for both camps.
“We need stability and quickness in our backcourt and Mike Cortez can provide that for us,” said
Pumaren, head coach of the Air21 Express, whose pursuit of his former star sentinel from La Salle
came even before the season started.
Cortez was Pumaren’s star point guard when the Green Archers won their fourth straight
championship in 2001. They had a chance to win five in a row the following year, but they lost in a
bitter do-or-die Finals against fierce rival Ateneo.
Neither Pumaren nor Cortez went public to talk about the heartbreaking setback for the past 10
While Cortez vowed to redeem himself by trying to win more games for Pumaren at Air21, the
multi-titled collegiate mentor will also try to bring the best out of the talented guard, whose
talent was overshadowed by various injuries and diminished role with his previous squads the past
“I thought it would be good for us if we will have this reunion of sorts. It’s an opportunity
for him to be recognized as one of the top point guards in the PBA,” said Pumaren.
Having Cortez in the backcourt is a necessity for the Express, according to Pumaren following an
injury that happened to Eric Salamat during the preseason.
“We need a dependable point guard. We only have Wynne Arboleda as our reliable point guard before
and because of that, we’ve also enlisted Pong Escobal, a free agent, to have an additional
reliever. With Mike around, we have someone who can play in long stretches for us,” said Pumaren.
Tanquingcen said the inclusion of Taha is a move to install young players in preparation for the
“The trade is in line with the team’s direction of adding youth to our roster,” said
“At the same time, Taha provides added depth in the position that we’re lacking. I am lacking a
big man.” (RJ)
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