Veteran guard Mike Cortez is returning to the Blackwater squad in what could be his final hurrah in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
But unlike in his first stop with the Elite, the former La Salle playmaker sensed that the team can achieve a lot in the coming PBA Season 43 Philippine Cup with the talent and experience it has.
And he won’t be surprised if Blackwater finally reaches the semis of the All-Filipino tournament.
“I think they have a good potential to be a good team because of the pieces they got last conference—Allein (Maliksi), Mac Belo and Poy Erram coming back to injury. And the maturity of (Roi) Sumang, I think they have a potential this coming season,” Cortez said to The Manila Times on Sunday.
“I think it (making it to semifinals) is very possible if everyone stays on the same page and exert team effort. Our main goal now is to get into the playoffs, quarterfinals, and semifinals. Finals for the first time in Blackwater franchise? Why not?” he added.
Cortez played for the Elite in 2015 and 2016 before moving to GlobalPort last season to reunite with former Green Archers head coach Franz Pumaren.
But with Batang Pier focusing on youth movement, he found himself without a team and Blackwater head coach Leo Isaac did not waste time in signing up the 37-Now on his 16th season, Cortez hopes to guide the young franchise to achieve its goals this year.
“We really need somebody who can provide leadership and experience that’s why we signed him up. At the same time, he is a veteran who can control the team especially during end game,” said Elite team manager Johonson Martinez, adding that Cortez was given a one-year deal although details of the contract were not divulged.
Blackwater almost reached the semis of the last season’s Governors Cup as it forced a do-or-die game against Meralco before surrendering a 104-96 win to the Bolts in their do-or-die game.
Aside from Cortez, the Elite also signed up rookies Reymar Jose, this year’s third overall pick, Kyle Neypes and Renz Palma to join forces with holdovers Maliksi, Belo, Erram, Mike Digregorio, Roi Sumang, Dave Marcelo, James Sena and John Pinto.
JOSEF T. RAMOS