Pampanga’s impressive run in the Fifth Season of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League is no longer a surprise, Gil Cortez said.
Cortez, one of the province’s most distinguished products, said Pampanga had already established itself as a hotbed of basketball in the country with a long list of talents eventually blossoming into Philippine Basketball Association superstars.
Among the current stars who came from the province’s long pipeline of talents are Calvin Abueva and Ian Sangalang of Magnolia, Jayson Castro of TNT Tropang Giga, Japeth Aguilar of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, and Javee Mocon of Phoenix Super LPG.
Even some of the PBA’s brightest coaches traced their roots to the bustling province in Central Luzon like the late Aric del Rosario and seven-time PBA champion Yeng Guiao.
On Tuesday night, former PBA standouts Encho Serrano and Arwind Santos led the Pampanga Giant Lanterns to an 86-82 win over the San Juan Knights to advance to the MPBL National Finals.
Cortez, the PBA Rookie of the Year in 1976, said Pampanga’s dominance in basketball is no longer surprising as it already has a reputation of being a powerhouse since the glory days of the Manila Industrial Commercial Athletic Association.
“It has always been that way ever since the MICAA,” Cortez told Daily Tribune in the latest episode of Down To The Wire podcast.
Cortez personally witnessed Pampanga’s dominance in regional basketball.
In fact, he served as team manager when the Pampanga Dragons asserted their might in the defunct Metropolitan Basketball League in 1998 with fellow Pampangueño Ato Agustin as team captain and Long David and Ariel Garcia as key players.
Cortez said it was a joy seeing the Kapampangans competing against the Cebuanos, bannered by Dondon Hontiveros, who eventually carved out an impressive PBA career.