For now, Filipino-American PBA prospects Cliff Hodge and Chris Ellis believe that playing for the country is more important than playing in the pros.
After their first practice with Gilas on Monday night at the Philsports Arena, the two D-League stars confirmed they will skip this year’s PBA draft to focus on national team duty. In the case of Ellis, he's ready to commit for the long term.
“Right now, what I plan on doing is just playing for Gilas probably for a year,” Hodge said. “I’m going to do this for a year, work on my game and get better as a player. I know I need a lot of work to do, like my shot needs to get a lot better, my dribbling. After a year, I should probably be a more complete player.”
Ellis is eyeing an even longer stint with Gilas.
“If everything works out, I plan to do this however long they let me,” Ellis said. “I would stay with them as long as I can. The PBA will come eventually. But I’m focusing and praying that the international competition will come first. Hopefully this doesn’t go away as fast as it can.”
Both players are in their second tour of duty with the national team, having played for the Sinag Pilipinas team that won the Southeast Asian Games gold medal last November.
Since then, Ellis said he has been waiting for the opportunity to wear the country’s colors again.
“It’s a dream come true,” Ellis said. “Ever since I found out about Philippine basketball, I’ve had this passion to play here. It’s the only thing I’ve wanted to do. And everything that I’ve been doing since a year ago has been leading up to this point.
“We’re fortunate enough to be asked to come back.”
Both players fit in nicely with the PBA veterans during their first training session with them.
“First practice was pretty good,” Hodge said. “We’re trying to learn the system and learning a lot of what coach Chot (Reyes) wants us to do. It’s a dribble-drive system. It’s different from what we’re used to in NLEX which is mostly triangle. But we’re coming along.”
“It was good,” Ellis said. “Luckily, the system that we’re running was the same that we ran in our last college (Angelo State University in Texas).”