New era, same glory: Cortez-Baclaan backcourt duo pledge for their awaited UAAP S88 debut

Coming from a Pinoyliga Collegiate Cup championship, the backcourt duo of Jacob Cortez and Kean Baclaan strive for greatness with the DLSU Green Archers.

In the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) collegiate basketball scene, where the winds of change often blow amid the rosters, the DLSU Green Archers have made a significant addition to their lineup with the arrival of the star-studded tandem of Jacob Cortez and Kean Baclaan. These new recruits signal a new era for the Lasallian duo come Season 88 and will fill the void left by veterans Evan Nelle and Mark Nonoy, who once fueled the Archers’ arrows on the hardwood court.

Fresh from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) from the San Beda Red Lions, Cortez brings a championship pedigree that resonates with the Green-and-White faithful. His presence on the court is akin to his father and former Green Archer, Mike Cortez, who has two UAAP championships below his belt and is known for orchestrating plays with finesse while also being a perimeter threat.

His anticipation is matched by his belief in the synergy between him and Baclaan, who is known for his tenure with the NU Bulldogs as their point guard and for his showing as a former De La Salle-Zobel high school product. “I’m super excited. I’ve been going against Kean since high school. Ever since then, we’ve been playing against each other. And now, we have a chance to share the court,” Cortez shares.

Echoing Cortez’s sentiments, Baclaan underscores the importance of adaptability and synergy within the team dynamic. “For me, it’s really easy [to play together with Cortez] because I came from NU,” Baclaan adds, drawing parallels from his past experience as one of the Bulldogs’ guards. “We had a combo guard, like [Steve] Nash [Enriquez], so it’s easy for me to adjust.”

Building a solid foundation

After returning the UAAP Season 86 Men’s Basketball Championship to Taft, the Green Archers managed to recruit the best backcourt duo in college hoops. Baclaan and Cortez joined the Green-and-White in January this year. For the time being, they will be behind the scenes to serve their one-year residency and join the Green Archers on the UAAP court in Season 88. 

The backcourt duo of Kean Baclaan and Jacob Cortez suit up for their highly-anticipated UAAP S88 debut as Green Archers.

Since moving to the Green-and-White, the talented duo reveals that their transition to the new team and system has been effortless. “The coaches and the players [have] been doing a good job in welcoming me into their system,” Cortez explains. Despite coming from a different UAAP team, Baclaan echoes his new teammate’s sentiments, saying, “We also came from a system, so it’s easy for us to adjust. Our mindset, our skills…we’re going to bring it into the system of Coach Topex.” 

Entering unknown pathways in life can be daunting but filled with endless growth opportunities, especially with a solid support system on an athlete’s side. Cortez mentions that having the unwavering guidance of his father and Coach Topex Robinson made the move easier than he expected. The former NCAA standout explains that the Green Archers welcomed him with open arms: “We took a campus tour in La Salle one day. I met all the players; I first met Josh [David], my old teammate in high school, Jcee [Macalalag], and basically all the La Salle Greenhills boys.”

Embracing the changes

Even though the former NU Bulldog came from another UAAP team that posed a threat to La Salle in Season 86, Baclaan admitted that he merged well with his newly-found squad in one of their team outings, “We were with [the team in] Balesin. We got to know each other, so it was easy for them to become close [to us].” 

Coach Robinson brings an entirely new system to the table, as the duo admits that he treats them like professional players. “He wants us to use our best judgment [to] do anything we want. But when it comes to basketball, it’s time to play,” Cortez explains. This was supported by Baclaan, who added that their new mentor also helped them prepare for their future, even past their collegiate careers, “Because we know that our career isn’t just until college, so he’s preparing us to become pros.”

Many collegiate basketball fans notice how the Green Archers always play in their top shape despite focusing on their hard-nosed defense on the court. The addition of coaches Migs Aytona and Gelo Vito to aid in the strength and conditioning of the team becomes a strong point as they both kept the team intact throughout their deep run in the playoffs “I think, personally, that’s a big factor why they won last year. I feel blessed and grateful to be joining that culture,” Cortez expresses his gratitude for the team behind the scenes.

Preparing for glory

The newly-formed Green Archers’ backcourt duo express their eagerness to step in and measure their abilities on the court to help assess how they could work with their new team and improve. Although they cannot yet participate in the highly-anticipated title defense in Season 87, Cortez and Baclaan are focused on upholding the team dynamics and honing their skills through intensive training and participation in pre-season fixtures. 

In the meantime, Cortez laced up for his Pinoyliga Collegiate Cup debut on April 28 and showcased his skills with 11 points and six assists. Meanwhile, Baclaan made his much-awaited debut as a Green Archer on May 4 for the same tournament, this time against their foes from Ateneo, pitching in 10 points. Cool Cub Cortez swiftly made his mark in the Pinoyliga Collegiate Cup by leading the Green Archers to the championship title with an all-around performance as Finals MVP on June 10.

Despite the challenges these newcomers face, they are assured of solid guidance and support from Coach Robinson, their teammates, and the entire Lasallian community. The tandem shares their hopes while they work in the back scene: “I hope we can go back-to-back,” Baclaan wishes before stating his goal of winning a championship as a Green Archer, bringing the team to a three-peat championship by his UAAP debut in Season 88. Cortez proclaims the same desired result, adding assuringly, “[I have] done it in the NCAA. I want to do it for La Salle, too.”

Indeed, the recruitment of Cortez and Baclaan marks the dawn of an upcoming era for the Green Archers. Its purpose is clear: to maintain La Salle’s prizewinner position in the UAAP collegiate basketball scene. However, achieving this will require unwavering dedication and efforts from the entire Green-and-White squad. Soon, what began as a promising tandem on the court will emerge as the driving force behind another championship triumph for La Salle—a testament to the Cortez-Baclaan duo’s perseverance and the anticipation surrounding their debut.

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