CHARLES Rhodes makes his PBA debut for San Miguel Beer Sunday when the Beermen clash with unbeaten leader Meralco Bolts in the main game of the Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
That he’ll be wearing an SMB uniform a year after personally watching the team – and a friend – play, never ever entered his mind.
Unknown to many, Rhodes was in the country last season to see close pal Tyler Wilkerson in action for the Beermen during the same mid-season tournament.
“Tyler is a good friend and I came here to see him,” recalled the former Mississippi State stalwart. “It’s a coincidence now that I’m playing for San Miguel.’
Talented and explosive he may be, Wilkerson unfortunately found himself given the pink slip in the middle of the playoffs when he imploded during the team’s semifinals series against Rain or Shine, costing San Miguel a shot at returning to the finals.
While he commiserated with his good friend, Rhodes hopes his first-ever stint here would produce positive results, especially for a franchise that is fresh from winning a third straight Philippine Cup championship.
“I hope I can be here for a long time,” said Rhodes, who arrived in the country just a few days after the Beermen captured the all-Filipino title at the expense of Barangay Ginebra. “I’m learning the ropes, so everything is doing good.”
The 31-year-old Rhodes is aware of the pressure that comes in reinforcing a team known for having the league’s best starting unit and a deep bench that is rich in championship experience.
For someone who admits to have come from a hard-nosed family, Rhodes certainly welcomes the challenge ahead of him.
“I love the pressure. That’s why pressure is no pressure to me, that’s what I want to be. I just love to have the opportunity,” said the import, who suited up for the Ulsan Mobis Phoebus in the Korea Basketball League (KBL) prior to coming over here.
Aside from aiming for a second straight title this season, San Miguel is also looking to end a championship drought in the Commissioner's Cup, a tournament the team last ruled in 2000 yet.
Rhodes believes he’s up to the task.
“Every year I play I try to get to the championship. I never sell myself short,” said Rhodes, who also had stints in Turkey, Latvia, and Spain other than Korea.
“I’m here for the championship. I want to be a champion and that’s what I play for. I don’t play for money.”