In the latest edition of Players Circle, we chat with VBA rookie Corey Cilia about how he found out about the league and his goals for the 2018 season. Corey is coming off the completion of his collegiate career at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

He was selected with the 2nd overall pick in the 2018 VBA Draft by the Hochiminh City Wings. Here is our conversation with Corey Cilia.

AS: Welcome to the VBA! Tell the fans a little about yourself.

Corey: I grew up in a small coastal town called Montara, California, about 20 miles south of San Francisco. I am the youngest of 3 children. I have the most loving parents someone can ask for and they are my biggest supporters. We have a dog named Puna who is as emotional as a human but really playful.

I attended Half Moon Bay High School where I was a 3 year varsity player and standout shooter/scorer my junior and senior years. During my time on the varsity team, we broke all sorts of school records (most wins in a season, farthest in playoffs, first Northern California playoff win, and a couple others). I played collegiately for the University of California Santa Cruz (UC Santa Cruz).

At UC Santa Cruz, I was also apart of teams that broke several school records (most Division 3 wins in a season, best single season record, single season record for most three pointers in a game). We enjoyed a lot of success as a team this past season and I was third leading scorer (averaged 10 ppg with 48.5% 3 point shooting, which i think is the best i have ever shot over a season).

Photo Credit: Corey Cillia’s instagram

AS: You sound like you have a great support network for your career. Who has been the biggest influences to your development as a basketball player?

Corey: I can thank my brother Jared for teaching me some of the basics of basketball, especially the importance of follow through and touch on any kind of shot. My brother Kyle also pushed me around for awhile on the court, especially on defense.

My best friend is also named Kyle and I have known him for about 15 years. He goes to San Jose State University. He was always bigger than me in high school and whenever we would play one-on-one, he would post me up (because that’s all he could do on me, lol) so I have to shout him out for making me tougher.

I have a really tight friend group in Santa Cruz as well, and their support has meant a lot to me these last few years at UC Santa Cruz and moving forward into my professional career in Vietnam, I know I can lean on them for support and I hope I can make them proud!

Photo credit: Vietnam Basketball Association

AS: How did you hear about the VBA?

Corey: Before my junior year of high school, my family traveled to Vietnam for three weeks. Being the basketball crazy kid, I brought a basketball with me because I couldn’t go 3 weeks without basketball.

It was tough to find a court to play on though, so my mom searched and found the Saigon Heat, who were playing in the ABL under head coach Jason Rabedeaux and assistant coach Ricky Magallanes. She got in contact with Connor Nguyen, who set up a workout with coach Magallanes. He put me through a workout and after, just told me to keep in touch.

That in itself was a big ego boost for a young player, especially coming from a professional coach. So i kept in touch with Connor throughout the rest of high school, and then finally in my second year of college, he told me about the VBA and mentioned the tryout in Southern California. I went to the tryout and did well enough to catch the eye of some of the coaches. Connor was there too, and asked when I would be available to join the league. I told him I wanted to graduate college before joining.

AS: What are your personal goals for 2018?

Corey: Of course everyone wants to win a championship, and I hope I can help the Wings get that far, but personally I just want to make an impact in this organization and in the VBA.

I idolize smaller guards like Steph Curry or Isiah Thomas who have all odds against them and still find a way to succeed, and I am hoping I can be even a fraction of that to a young generation of Vietnamese.

I’ve been in two basketball programs (high school and college) that have been completely turned around and have achieved lots of success so I am hoping I can do anything and everything to help the Wings in that regard as well.

AS: What shoes do you wear?

Corey: I will probably wear the Under Armour Curry 3. I’ve had those the past two seasons in college and they’ve been great for me. They fit my ankle braces comfortably and even though there are better looking shoes, these ones are functional. Don’t need to fix what isn’t broken!

Photo Credit: Corey Cillia’s instagram

AS: How will you cope with being homesick?

Corey: Music and pictures are definitely going to be my medicine when I am feeling homesick. Social media is a great thing for that because most of my friends live in California, so I can live through them vicariously through their posts.

Food is also a big part of home for me and I love Vietnamese food, but I hope I can find a good burrito somewhere. Without Mexican food, California isn’t California!

AS: What are you listening to during pregame?

Corey: My pregame playlists change up a bit! As of late, my workout music is some punk rock/hip-hop. Stuff like Rage Against the Machine, Beastie Boys, etc.

As I think about Vietnam, that is the kind of music I think of to bring me back home in my mind because a lot of that is the music I listened to growing up. I can thank my dad for that!

In terms of newer music, my workout pregame playlist consists of stuff from DMX, J Cole, Kanye, Kendrick, Big KRIT, Drake, Meek Mill, and Phora. I also have a Dame Lillard song in there somewhere, and of course I continually add to my playlist!