Filipino-American standouts Cliff Hodge and Chris Ellis would not be part of this year’s PBA draft, choosing instead to be part of the SMART-Gilipinas Pilipinas national program’s cadet pool, which will be composed of top amateur basketball players in the country.
The two players will continue to carry the national colors, after helping Sinag Pilipinas win the Southeast Asian Games gold medal last year.
According to SMART-Gilas team manager Butch Antonio, the cadet pool will complement the players from the PBA who are also part of the program.
“The cadet pool will be tasked to represent the country in the SEA Games and Asian Games, while the pro pool will represent the country in the FIBA Asia Championship and hopefully, the FIBA World Cup,” said Antonio.
Other amateur standouts are expected to join the cadet pool, whose roster is still being finalized.
The formation of the pool hearkens to the original batch of SMART-Gilas players from the collegiate ranks. JVee Casio, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Lutz, Mac Baracael, Mark Barroca, Dylan Ababou, and Jason Ballesteros spent three years with SMART-Gilas before joining the PBA.
Antonio believes it helps both the league and the players.
“Once these amateur players decide to enter the PBA, hinog na hinog na sila. On the PBA’s part, it’s also good for the league dahil handa na rin yung mga rookies. Para na rin silang beterano,” said Antonio.