IF there's one man who is happiest over Mike Cortez's arrival at Meralco, it should be Mac Cardona.
Cardona bared that there is no point guard in or out of the pro league that knows him better than the 32-year-old Cortez, a former De La Salle teammate who joined the Bolts camp in a trade last week.
“Alam ni Mike kasi kung kailan at saan ako papasahan. Yung bigay niya sa akin swabe talaga. Ititira ko na lang. Nakakasa na eh, ready to shoot,” said the Mandaluyong-born player.
Ironically, initial negotiations between Meralco and Air21 discussed a straight swap between Cardona and Cortez, who in the end landed on the Bolts' lap in exchange for the rights to Asi Taulava.
Cardona heaved a big sigh of relief.
“Buti na lang hindi natuloy - sa awa ng Diyos!”
The two spent a memorable time together at La Salle, but they've known each other for almost two decades when they were both playing for the Carson High School Colts in California.
Cortez was part of the varsity team, while Cardona was with the junior team.
“Dun nagsimula friendship namin ni Mike. Hindi kami teammates, pero madalas kami magkasama sa laro,” said Cardona. “Since then parang isa na lang bituka namin. Alam niya kung paano ako kumilos, alam niya kung paano ako titira.”
Cortez remembered getting his first glimpse of Cardona's trademark hook shot during that time.
“Before sa States, nakikita ko na yung hook shot niya. Kaya nung naging magkakampi kami sa La Salle, sabi ko, 'Ah, I know how to use this guy,'” said the former No. 1 rookie pick.
The duo ended up playing together for La Salle in 2001 when Cardona won the UAAP Rookie of the Year award while teaming up with Cortez in the backcourt.
“Sobrang saya ko at magkakampi kami ulit ni Mike, kasi syempre naalala ko … first year ko sa La Salle. Ang ganda ng laro ko nun dahil sa kanya,” bared Cardona, recalling how sad he was when Cortez left La Salle in 2002 to join the PBA draft.
“Nalungkot talaga ko nun, kasi nung umalis na siya sa La Salle, medyo nag-struggle talaga ako nun,” he said. “Sayang nga kasi kung kailan maganda na samahan naming saka pa kami naghiwalay.”
Now that they're reunited after 11 long years, Cardona hopes he and Cortez can take care of some unfinished business.
“Sana yung nagawa namin sa La Salle magawa naming dito sa Meralco,” said Cardona.
Cortez, meanwhile, admits he is still trying to get re-acquianted with Cardona’s game.
“I am trying my best ... It’ll take me time to get used to him again, but I am slowly but surely recalling it,” said Cortez with a laugh.