By Jean Malanum

UAAP-BOUND. San Beda University’s Jacob Cortez (No. 2) is tightly guarded by Mapua’s Kobe Dalisay during Game 2 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Season 99 men’s basketball finals at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City on Dec. 10, 2023 shows. On Thursday (Jan. 11, 2024), he announced his plan to play for the University Athletic Association of the Philippines this year. (Photo courtesy of NCAA)

MANILA – Jacob Cortez, a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Season 99 champion San Beda University, has left the team.

“With great difficulty, I have decided that my time as a Red Lion is closing, and would like to officially announce that I will not be playing for San Beda University in their upcoming season,” shared Cortez on his Facebook account Thursday.

The 5-foot-10 former University of Santo Tomas (UST) juniors standout is eyeing a return to the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP).

“Challenging, improving, and growing is always my goal, and so I have decided that to achieve this, I need to get out of my comfort zone. With that, I plan to compete in the UAAP,” said Cortez, whose father, Mike, was a former Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) star and De La Salle Green Archer.

Cortez said he would never forget San Beda and their supporters who supported his journey.

“I have had the best time at San Beda. From playing as a rookie fresh out of high school in an isolating yet invigorating bubble season to helping bring back the crown where it belongs after many have counted San Beda out,” he said.

“Still, the most unforgettable part of the past couple of years has been all of you. Along the journey, I’ve truly met people who I can call Family now.”

San Beda team manager Jude Roque expressed his gratitude to Cortez, saying the Red Lions wish Jacob well.

“He was instrumental in our Season 99 championship run, and for that we will always be thankful to him. He will always be part of the Red Lions family,” Roque said.

San Beda bagged a league record 23rd title after beating Mapua, 76-66, on Dec. 17, 2023. (PNA)