NO matter what the outcome may be, even just getting a shot in the WNBA will already be a full-circle moment for Filipino-American baller Chanelle Molina.
Earlier this month, the Hawaii native signed a training camp contract with 2012 WNBA champions Indiana Fever. This is probably the closest a full-blooded Filipina has ever gotten to the prestigious women's professional league.
“This is bigger than basketball because I’m representing the whole Filipino community and the little girls out there aspiring to be in my position,” she said on an Instagram live interview with coach Cris Gopez of Fil-Am Nation Select Tuesday.
Chanelle is the eldest child of her Quezon City and Ilocos Norte-born parents, who migrated to United States in their early teenage years. She's spent her entire life in the States, but she’s dead set on bannering Filipina talent internationally.
Her siblings Cherilyn and Celena make up their family’s ‘tres marias’ ballers. The trio all played for the Washington State Cougars in the US NCAA Division I. While the younger two are still active, Chanelle graduated last year and pursued a pro career in Sweden.
A family raised in hoops
Her dad, a big basketball fan, was the one who exposed the family to the game of hoops.
“I first picked up a basketball when I was 8. We have a hoop outside our yard. I’d be out there shooting with my sisters, or I join my dad with his friends,” she shared.
At 10 years old, she joined a local club team, the Stingrays, where she sharpened her fundamentals: shooting, passing, dribbling.
Molina also dabbled in volleyball and soccer, even bringing home a few state titles for her high school.
“In high school, before basketball season is volleyball, and it was actually my second sport, I was an outside hitter,” she said. Her sisters were active in the sport, as well.
But in the end, it would be basketball that won out. “I always knew I was gonna pick basketball after high school. I love the game, the fast pace of ot, the unpredictability of it, just everything about it," said Molina.
With her promising high school stint in Hilo in Hawaii, she received offers all over the country as she prepared to go collegiate.
Washington State’s offer stood out after they offered a package deal that included a place for her two other sisters after they graduated high school.
“My first year away from my family was depressing, but I chose Washington State because of the community there. It was a small town, everyone treated each other like family. I was gonna get used to this, it feels like home, especially when my sisters came in,” she said.
She also shared that sharing the court with her sisters was an experience for the books.
In fact, they are often compared to the NBA’s Ball brothers, Lonzo, Melo and Gelo.
“It was great playing with my sisters, being on one team, but we’re actually focused on the opponent more. Cherilyn does the things not seen on the papers,” she said.
On to the pros
The 5-foot-8 Kailua Kona-born player made waves during her four-year stay with the Cougars. It was impressive enough that she earned the interest of WNBA team the Connecticut Sun.
Unfortunately, she was left undrafted in the March 2020 WNBA draw, which happened just before the pandemic hit.
A frustrated Chanelle worked even harder during the lockdown to get her game to the next level, despite the restrictions keeping her away from the normal experience of an actual ball game.
“I trained and trained over the quarantine, got myself in condition. I was even supposed to move with a friend just to train,” she said.
Her management then informed her about the offer from the Swedish League. Now with the Norrköping Dolphins, she's a few games away from the playoffs. She aims to finish her stint with them before she commits fully to the Fever.
With her gallant journey, she aims to spark hope among Filipinas with dreams of making it big in basketball, and even expressed her interest in joining the Gilas Women’s squad.
“When the time is right, I want to represent my country,” she said. “It wasn’t an easy road to get where I am right now, there’d be hardships, failures, but I can only focus on what I can control — that is, my mindset and work ethic.”
As for her advice to aspiring ballers, she had this to say: “Just keep grinding, be the best version of yourself and stay determined. I get a lot of DMs from little girls... they're always like 'You're my idol, representing Filipinos.' It's bigger than basketball for sure.”