The shade of neon green colors on GlobalPort uniforms look brighter these days as newly-installed coach Franz Pumaren has been reunited with some of his former players at De La Salle.
The 52-year-old Pumaren spent 12 years at the Taft-based camp and helped the Green Archers win five UAAP men’s cage titles in that span, highlighted by a “four-peat” that enabled them to build one of the most notable dynasties in the country’s premier collegiate league.
And Pumaren can surely relive those golden memories at the Batang Pier camp where he is enjoying a reunion of sorts with former Green Archers stars, guard Mike Cortez and forward Rico Maierhofer, and center Philip Paredes who have all cracked GlobalPort’s 15-strong lineup.
Journeyman Jerwin Gaco also found himself back in the arms of Pumaren as he serves as one of GlobalPort’s practice players while another former Green Archer, Cholo Villanueva, is acting as Batang Pier’s lead assistant coach.
GlobalPort owner Mikee Romero and Erick Arejola, the team’s alternate governor, are also proud La Sallians.
“Parang college pa rin, we’re running the same system,” the 6-foot Cortez told FOX Sports, whose team eyes a second straight win when it faces the Star Hotshots Friday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“All of these defensive strategies are the same. Bago lang yung mga players so we just have to build our team chemistry,” added “The Cool Cat” a former UAAP Rookie of the Year awardee who played an instrumental role in La Salle’s title-winning teams in 2000 and 2001.
Even the 6-foot-5 Maierhofer, who helped the Green Archers reach the Promised Land in 2007, admitted his familiarity with Pumaren’s system makes things easier while making a steady recovery from an anterior cruciate ligament injury he suffered last April.
“Daddy ko ‘yan since college,” beamed Maierhofer, the pro league’s 2010 Rookie of the Year awardee.
“Sobrang excited ako kasi sa kanya lahat ng nalalaman ko sa basketball. As a basketball player, sa kanya nag-start. Ngayon alam ko na ‘yung role ko sa team. Sinasabi niya sa akin na just do my role and just do my best kasi alam niya naman capability ko since sa kanya ako nagsimula,” explained Maierhofer.
While the Batang Pier are more known as a run-and-gun team mainly behind top guards Terrence Romeo and Stanley Pringle, the defensive identity of a Pumaren squad will eventually come to the fore, stressed Maierhofer.
“Alam naman natin ‘yung sistema ni coach Franz, talagang defense first. ‘Yung offense namin, nandyan naman talaga ‘yan kasi mga teammates ko scorers talaga. Pero yung defense, mahalaga rin kasi si coach Franz ‘yung coach, talagang mai-emphasize ‘yung defense,” he stressed.
While their familiarity with Pumaren can serve as a favor, Cortez admits the Batang Pier still need to get the job done if and when they want to duplicate—or surpass—the team’s semifinal finish in the all-Filipino tourney last year.
“After Terrence and Stan, we in the second group should have to either keep pace what the first group did or try to go above. We can’t let the lead slip away like we did (in the past). Hopefully in our practice, we can work more on our team chemistry and introduce the new guys to the new system,” he said.
“A lot of these guys are hungry. They know what it takes and what it feels like to be in the semis. All of us want to go back there in the semifinals. At least now, we got myself, KG, Quinahan, Pennissi, who have been in different scenes already so we kinda getting old so we want to get back in those games where it mean something to us,” Cortez added.- Jerome Lagunzad
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