In college basketball terms, sophomore forward Marlon Cort is not a big man. Standing 6’5”, the athletic wing appeared to be a natural fit as a shooting guard or a small forward in a traditional roster. This season, however, Southwestern College did not have a traditional roster.
Injuries forced the Jaguars to fight for a playoff spot without a player taller than 6’5”. Cort played out of position in most games, but his versatility was essential to the small-ball approach.
He said playing as a kid in Brooklyn toughened him.
“Basketball is crazy out there, you gotta fight, man,” the 23-year-old said. “Even if you’re good, nothing is given to you. I think every New York kid goes through that experience, growing up at the park and just bringing it and showing your heart out there. It gets physical, it gets intense.”
Cort’s motivation to pursue basketball was born from a little-known fact.
“My mom told me, ‘You know, Michael Jordan was born in Brooklyn.’ I said, ‘He’s from North Carolina though,’ but she told me he was born in Brooklyn.”
Averaging 12.7 points per game and 6.1 rebounds per game, both marks second on the team, Cort was the only Jaguar named first team all-conference, awarded to eight of the top players in the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference. Sophomore Marcus Gladden was named second team, and freshman Damian Elam was listed honorable mention.
Cort said he dedicated each game to a lost loved one.
“I wear number 14 because in late July, just before this season, I lost my grandmother,” he said. “She had lived with me for 14 years so I was like, I’m going to dedicate this season to her and I’m gonna wear number 14 for the rest of the time that I play basketball.”
Prior to the season, Cort survived a massive car accident when his car flipped off the freeway and rolled over multiple times. He came to in the hospital with only a scar on his left hand. He said the experience impacted him greatly.
“When I woke up in the hospital with just a scar, it is amazing and it’s a blessing,” he said.
He pays tribute to his grandmother by praying at the five-minute mark of each game, he said, a reference to the time that she would watch her favorite television show.
Cort tries to model his game after Golden State Warriors power forward Draymond Green.
“I like his game, I feel like he plays with a lot of intensity,” he said. “He has passion for the game and I just try to implement that as well.
Cort said Green plays undersized, which inspires him.
The undersized Jaguars may have lacked height, but they showed big heart in a nail-biter loss to San Diego City College with the playoffs on the line. City College outrebounded the Jags 43-25, though Cort and Gladden combined for 20.
“Against some of the bigger teams we tried to use like a Golden State Warriors type of mantra, and just play quicker than them,” Cort said. “A lot of teams couldn’t keep up with us.”
If the team was healthy, Cort said, it would be playing postseason games.
“Honestly, if we had the whole squad, we would be playing right now. In my opinion I think we’d be playing right now.”
Jags coach John Cosentino said Cort improved during the season.
“We used him all over the place,” he said. “He came here as a shooter and that was his strong suit and he pretty much made himself into a complete player.”
Cosentino said he saw potential in Cort.
“It’s just that we had to get it out of him,” he said. “I don’t think anybody had ever made him play defense. He was always probably the best shooter on any team he ever played on and they were okay with that. But at this level, it’s a different story.”
After graduating this month, Cort still hopes to pursue basketball, possibly as a university walk-on.
“I definitely want to pursue basketball,” he said. “I’m able to see a lot of things that I’ve never seen before, so I want to continue playing and just take my talents to wherever they may end up.”