By John Philip Wyllie
Ranked among the county’s scoring leaders, Southwest High School’s Allen Cortez has been around basketball ever since he can remember.
“When I was growing up, my dad used to play all the time. I always used to watch him and now I am following in his footsteps.”
His 17 points in last Friday’s 66-47 victory over the Bonita Vista Barons helped to keep the Raiders undefeated in conference play (2-0) and upped their overall record to 10-5. It has been a promising start to what Cortez hopes will be a championship season.
“This is my last year here, so I’d like to win a Metro banner. Then, hopefully I’ll get enough attention so that I can play at the next level.”
Strong academically as well as on the basketball court, Cortez appears to have a bright future ahead of him. At a shade under 6’4” however, he is possibly a tad small for the college game. He makes up for it with his strength and hustle. His coach, Steve Selland, has plenty to say about Cortez’s contribution to the Raiders’ early season success.
“Allen is a three-year varsity player, so we depend on him a lot. With his experience, having Allen out there is like having an another coach on the floor. He can sometimes assist me in areas or see things that I can’t see from the bench. He also helps a lot with some of his less experienced teammates.”
Cortez learned the fundamentals of the game south of the border.
“T.J. is where I got my start in basketball and where a lot of my coaches are from. I started playing on (organized) teams down there when I was about 10. Once the (high school) season is over, I want to continue playing there. I’ve missed a lot of the club season (in T.J.), but hopefully when this season ends, they will give me a chance to play.”
Several years ago, Cortez was part of a club team that won a national club championship in Mexico.
“In Mexico, the clubs compete first in local competition. The winning teams keep going on and on. The (regional) winners play in national competition. I played in it my freshman year and we won.”
Regardless of which side of the border Cortez is playing on, his father is usually on hand.
“I can always count on my dad to be there for me. He’s always cheering me on. He gives me pointers and let’s me know what I could have done better. Sometimes he’ll notice things I don’t see.”
What anyone can see is the impact that Cortez has on a game. In addition to being the Raiders’ primary offensive weapon averaging 18 points per game, Cortez is also their leading rebounder.
“He is not overly tall for a post, but he works awfully hard,” according to Selland. “Allen has developed a lot of offensive moves from the time that he began starting as a sophomore. He still hasn’t developed his outside shot to the degree where perhaps he could, but he is very tough inside and he is able to score against taller players. He also scores a lot from the free-throw line and he is an excellent defensive player.”
While pleased with his team’s performance thus far, Selland isn’t making any predictions about how far it will go just two games into the league season. It is clear that the Raiders’ hopes of a league title will depend to a certain degree on how well Cortez can deal with the defensive schemes designed to thwart him.