Puerto Rico is mainly understood for its stunning beaches and dynamic cobblestone streets, however beyond the swaying palm trees are numerous outside basketball courts filled with kids wishing to one day meet their hoop dreams. And the island’s girls have a remarkable example to admire: Carla Cortijo.
Cortijo is the very first Puerto Rican lady to ever play in the WNBA and she led the Island’s nationwide group to the 2011 Pan American gold medal. She’s presently training in the guys’s Baloncesto Superior Nacional (BSN) of Puerto Rico for the famous Santurce Cangrejeros, the group co-owned by native child and Grammy winner Bad Bunny and where JJ Barea presently plays.
Born and raised in a pueblo simply beyond San Juan called Carolina, Carla was talented her very first basketball by her grandma. After that, she never ever put it down.
“I started in a boys’ team because there were no women’s teams at that time,” Carla show SLAM.
The absence of developmental programs for ladies on the Island wasn’t something that stopped her however.
Carla made waves in the basketball scene as early as her freshman year at Maria Auxiliadora High School, when she assisted them go unbeaten and led them to back-to-back commonwealth champions. She continued making Boricua country proud while dipping into the University of Texas. She then eventually played overseas prior to getting the call-up to the W.
“It was such a difficult process, and coming from Puerto Rico, we don’t have this kind of exposure or opportunities, especially women,” she states. “We have to work twice or thrice as hard to achieve what we want. Reaching the WNBA was a relief.”
After 3 BSNF (Baloncesto Superior Nacional Feminino) champions, 2 effective WNBA seasons and nearly twenty years messing around the world, Carla handled a brand-new function: coach.
Working with Cangrejeros, Cortijo was just recently misinterpreted for a cheerleader by media workers, and while she took it in stride, her objective is to alter that worn out story.
“It shouldn’t be like, Oh, wow, a woman coaching,” she states. “It’s just a part of it.”
Photos through Getty Images.