EVEN before coming on board Barangay Ginebra, veteran Jeff Chan has long displayed his inner ‘Never-Say-Die’ attitude.
It actually dates as far back as the 2008 PBA rookie draft.
Coming off a flourishing amateur career that saw him become part of three straight UAAP men’s basketball championships with Far Eastern University and winning a gold with the Philippine team in the 2007 Southeast Asian Games, Chan was a consensus first-round pick when he applied for the draft 13 years ago.
But things didn’t go according to expectations as the pride of Bacolod City saw himself settling as a late second-round pick, ending up as the third-to-the-last player to be selected in the draft at No. 17 overall by Red Bull.
Chan admitted feeling down shortly after.
“Yung morale ko noon napakababa talaga,” recalled Chan in an episode of the PBA Kamustahan. “Kasi I think doon sa batch namin (2008), parang ako na yung (one of the) last guys.”
Chan was picked ahead of only Mark Cuevas (Red Bull) and Christian Cabatu (Sta. Lucia) during the draft where Fil-Am guard Gabe Norwood emerged as the No. 1 overall pick by Rain or Shine.
"Siyempre as a player gusto mo nandoon ka sa Top 10,” said Chan, aware that players selected in the first round have more bargaining power for contracts than those picked in the succeeding rounds.
The ‘snub’ somehow became a challenge for him, a big motivation for Chan to prove himself.
“That motivated me to show that I belong and I can stay longer,” he said, “[and] that I can also play against (the PBA’s) top players.”
“So sabi ko I’ll work hard.”
After a modest rookie season, Chan got the break he needed after being traded to Rain or Shine, where he would eventually established himself as one of the league’s fearsome shooters.
He won two championships with the Elasto Painters in a stint that saw him get the nod as the Finals MVP in 2012 and named the league’s Most Improved Player and part of the Mythical Second Team the same season.
Moreover, he became a vital cog of the Gilas Pilipinas team that won the 2012 Jones Cup, finished runner-up in the 2013 FIBA Asia Men’s Championship, and took part in its first FIBA World Cup stint in 2014 after a 36-year absence.
“Yun talaga ang nag-motivate sa akin to stay longer in the PBA, win championships at yun nga, nakapag-Gilas pa, showing to everyone that I deserve it,” said Chan.
Now 37, Chan won two more titles upon his transfer to Barangay Ginebra in 2018 and looks forward to winning a few more before finally calling it a career.
Incidentally, Chan is the only remainng active PBA player from those picked in the second round of the 2008 draft, the others being Pong Escobal, TY Tang, Cholo Villanueva, Chito Jaime, Kelvin Dela Pena, and Jonathan Fernandez.
From the 10 players selected in the first round, only five remain active in the league, namely Norwood, Jared Dillinger, Jayson Castro, Mark Borboran, and Beau Belga.
Rob Reyes, Sol Mercado, Bonbon Custodio, Larry Rodriguez, and Kelvin Gregorio were the other first-round draftees.