Cliff Hodge admits picking up defensive mindset from ex-teammate Ross

Cliff Hodge admits picking up defensive mindset from ex-teammate Ross june mar fajardo cliff hodge

CLIFF Hodge has always been known as a hard-nosed and effective defensive player for Meralco. But believe it or not, San Miguel’s Chris Ross, whose team the Bolts' are playing for the PBA Philippine Cupchampionship, has something to do with it.

Hodge and Ross became teammates after Hodge was drafted by Meralco No. 4 overall in the 2012 draft. Ross was already there for two years and the two, both Fil-Americans, established a close friendship.

Hodge's reputation as a fierce defender was nurtured in the amateur league when he was part of the NLEX Road Warriors in the PBA D-League. He also was a member of the Philippine team that won the gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games in 2011.

And the two had an ongoing joke.

'That's my vet,' says Hodge of Ross

"That’s my vet," said Hodge in an interview prior to the finals of Ross, who played for the Bolts from 2010 to 2013, who also recalled that Ross sold to him his first car.

And Ross would return the favor by saying, during the same press conference, that Hodge is 'his rookie.'

While Hodge has been with Meralco from the start of his PBA career, Ross moved on after a year. He was signed by San Miguel, and he became a member of San Miguel's 10 PBA championship teams since.

It was at San Miguel where Ross developed his defensive skills. He won two Defensive Player of the Year awards and was a seven-time All-Defensive Team member in consecutive seasons from 2015 to 2021.

Meanwhile, during his stint with Meralco, Hodge also earned a reputation as one of the toughest players in the league, with two All-Defensive Team plums in his resume.

The 39-year-old Ross was a role model for Hodge who picked up his friend's work ethic and the desire to play defense.

"He’s always been a guy that I looked up to when I was younger," said the 36-year-old Hodge. "Always put in the work. I actually modelled my game to him because he’s always been a defensive player. "

Now the two friends are facing each other for the Philippine Cup title with Meralco leading the best-of-seven series, 2-1.

"It’s crazy to see him in the finals,' said Hodge, the longest-tenured Meralco player, whose team had been there four times, each time losing to Ginebra.

Winning PBA title won't be easy against Ross

Hodge's stats have not been shabby at all. He has been playing well in the PBA Finals, posting averages of 14 points and a team-high 12.3 rebounds in three games against Ross’ Beermen.

After all those close finishes in the past, there is no question that Hodge is hungry for a championship. Doing it at the expense of Ross, his friend, will be special, but he knows it's not a sure thing as San Miguel is the league's best team and still the favorite even if trailing, 2-1, in the finals.

"It would be fitting for me to finally win my first championship. I know he (Ross) doesn’t want it, but I hope it actually happens," said Hodge.

  • https://www.msn.com/en-ph/sports/basketball/cliff-hodge-admits-picking-up-defensive-mindset-from-ex-teammate-ross/ar-BB1nX0ez?ocid=00000000

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