There’s no question, really, how good Mac Cardona is when it comes to putting the basketball through the hoop.
Hence the Captain Hook moniker, which the enigmatic cager earned during his time with De La Salle University because of his patented teardrop, running hook shot, which was terrifyingly effective.
But in Derrick Pumaren’s eyes, the UAAP Season 64 Rookie of the Year was more than just a tenacious scorer.
Pumaren served as a consultant to the Green Archers that time while his brother Franz was the head coach. And for him, Cardona was as good on the defensive side of the floor.
“When we were in La Salle, we had Mac Mac Cardona. When we introduced the press, he’s one guy that we allowed to make mistakes because parang he wants to guard everybody,” recalled Pumaren, who returned as DLSU head coach anew last January.
“But his energy, his hustle, you’ll be surprised that he’ll be able to recover and cover his man. So we allowed that.”
Pumaren said so during his talk in the Hoop Coaches International Webinar hosted by Blackwater last Thursday, where he discussed the full-court pressure defense.
He was then asked who were the best full-court defenders had he coached. He then mentioned Cardona, whom he had also worked with in the Talk ‘N Text Phone Pals in the PBA in 2007.
Aside from the UAAP gold medalist, Malick Diouf was also in the list of the decorated bench tactician.
Pumaren had coached the Senegalese 7-footer at Centro Escolar University, a partnership highlighted by an unlikely trip to the 2019 PBA D-League Finals, as they only had seven players on the team.
The Scorpions were then rocked with game-fixing allegations come playoff time. They almost half of its players, but fought gallantly in the title bout won by Cignal-Ateneo in four games.
Many expected the Blue Eagles to sweep their way to the crown, but Diouf and CEU came out with a surprise when they took Game Two, 77-74, to tie the best-of-five series at one game apiece.
“Probably my big man would be Malick. Because he’s a quick big man, 7-footer that can run, that can cover,” said Pumaren of Diouf, who transferred to University of the Philippines last year.
“He understands the game. He’s very raw but he’s there. He’s a good last line of defense that he can change shots.”
Pumaren, though, found it tough to name more of his former players since “almost all are good defenders,” he said.
Instead, the former PBA champion coach looked at his current Green Archers squad and mentioned players such as Aljun Melecio and Tyrus Hill as some of his good defenders right now.
“Right now, we have some good defenders,” Pumaren said. “Si Aljun is a good pressure guy right now sa team. Tyrus has adjusted. He’s a different Tyrus now. You’ll be surprised.
“He’s a different guy now. He’s a big guy that can really help for pressing, he’s quick, he’s got great anticipation.”
That brings hope to the La Sallian community, which has been itching to see the Green Archers back into contention after missing the Final Four in the last two seasons.