CLIFF HODGE and Chris Ellis have made themselves available to the PBA Draft, after all.
The two amateur standouts formally submitted their application papers to the PBA office Thursday afternoon, but not after reiterating their earlier commitment to play for the national team.
The move by the pair of highly-touted Fil-Ams came after initially planning to forego turning pro this year in the hope of being included in the cadet pool of Smart Gilas-Pilipinas 2 under coach Chot Reyes.
But their exclusion in the roster of the ongoing Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) tournament in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where Reyes and his coaching staff anticipated a probable backlash on their citizenship eligibility by Fiba, influenced the duo to just join the August 19 draft.
“They applied for the draft, but definitely, they want to play for the national team,” said Charlie Dy, the agent for both Hodge and Ellis who accompanied the duo in submitting their papers to the PBA office.
At latest count, a total of 28 amateurs have already made themselves available for the rookie draft, the most prominent among them reigning D-League MVP Vic Manuel, former National University stalwart Jewel Ponferrada, Big Chill main man Alex Mallari, Keith Jensen, and former Letran hotshot Jaypee Belencion.
Hodge, the Best Player of the Conference in the recent Foundation Cup, and Ellis played pivotal roles in NLEX’s three straight championships in the PBA D-League.
The two were also part of the Sinag-Pilipinas team that won the basketball gold in the last Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia.
Their last-minute removal from the Seaba-bound Smart Gilas team was prompted by the same citizenship issues that hounded Chris Lutz and Marcio Lassiter in last year’s Fiba-Asia Men’s Basketball Championship in Wuhan, China.
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas is currently checking on the status of both Ellis and Hodge before being allowed to suit up in any Fiba-sanctioned tournament.