VARSITY players who are in their final year of eligibility frequently gun for individual awards by the end of the season in hopes of boosting their stock once they turn pro.
But Jam Cortes, one of three graduating players for Letran this NCAA men’s basketball season, is more concerned about team victory than individual glory.
Cortes actually is already ineligible to win any award after he was ejected in a game for committing a disqualifying foul in the Knights’ 67-77 loss to Arellano in the first round last July 7.
“Instead na malungkot dahil hindi na ako magkakaroon ng chance manalo ng award, inisip ko na lang na i-build up ang teammates ko,” the 24-year-old power forward from Cagayan Valley said shortly after practice a day before the Knights face defending champion San Beda Red Lions in Game One of the NCAA Finals.
That’s the reason why Cortes, the Knights’ second-leading scorer in the eliminations with a 12.6 points average, only normed 2.5 points in Letran’s two Final Four outings against San Sebastian.
He did hit the two charities in their do-or-die game against the Stags last Monday that sealed the Knights’ first Finals appearance in five years.
But Cortes, whom Knights coach Louie Alas labels as his most hardworking player, was far from his usual self, insisting he was just trying to let his teammates, especially Kevin Alas and Mark Cruz, take most of the spotlight.
Expect him to bring back his A-game however, once he plays in the biggest games of his college career opposite the Knights’ longtime rivals.
“Oo naman,” he beamed. “All-out na, wala ng next time eh.”
When the Knights show up for the opener of the best-of-three title series at the Mall of Asia Arena on Thursday, Cortes will still draw inspiration from his teammates.
“Motivation ko mga teammates ko na hardworking. Sila nagbibigay ng lakas sa akin para magampanan ko mga responsibilities ko,” the marketing management student said.