Fresh from a run in the finals of the Governor’s Cup last year, the disappointment of the recent Philippine Cup campaign came as quite a surprise for many. But while the recent struggles have cast a shadow on last season’s breakthrough, co-captain Cliff Hodge is confident that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Selected fourth overall in the 2012 draft, the do-it-all forward is one of a few with the unique perspective of seeing exactly how the franchise has evolved over the years.
As one of the longest serving players for the Meralco Bolts, how would you describe the journey so far?
It’s been a great experience. I’ve seen a lot of players come and go actually, a lot of friends. Just to see the team start all the way from the bottom from when I got here, and to grow to our final series last year, is a great experience. It’s good to see, like, you putting in all this hard work, you watching all the guys doing the work, and finally seeing it payoff — it’s the best thing to see.
What has changed the most over the last five years?
I feel like chemistry. Chemistry is the biggest difference. For me, you’re out there playing with guys you consider family. When you play with your family, you play a little bit harder for those guys. You know everyone’s story and you know what everyone’s going through, so you kinda want to do a little bit of extra work. And of course we want to win for all our fans and everyone who’s supporting us.
How did the grittiness and togetherness of the team come about?
Actually, I feel like most of it came when coach Norman [Black] and boss Pao (Paolo Trillo) came through and shook up the organization. They really set the standard for what they wanted here and how they wanted everyone to play. Then we got through the draft and made some trades. From there, we got [Chris] Newsome and other two rookies, and everyone is just pitching in now.