MANILA, Philippines – The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) insists naturalized center Andray Blatche is qualified to play in the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon amidst questions from the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) about the NBA player's eligibility.
Reports came out Wednesday that according to OCA, Blatche has to serve a three-year residency before he can represent the Philippines in the Incheon Asian Games.
"There's a big possibility na hindi nila papayagan lumaro," said Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman Richie Garcia. "They cited a rule of OCA that a player who is naturalized will need a three-year residency."
Also questioned were the eligibility of other Gilas players Gabe Norwood and Jared Dillinger.
In light of the situation, the SBP released a statement addressing the questions posed by the Incheon Asian Games Organizing Committee, and said the organization has "forwarded to the Philippine Olympic Committee pertinent documents providing irrefutable proof as to the qualifications of the three."
In their statement, the SBP said that Norwood and Dillinger are "eligible to play in the 2014 Asian Games, considering that they have resided in the Philippines for more than three years prior to the 2014 Asian Games."
The SBP provided a copy of Norwood and Dillinger's old passports as proof.
As for Blatche, the SBP insists the OCA's three-year residency requirement does not apply to the former Brooklyn Net center/forward.
SBP cited the rules of the International Olympic Committee "as per Olympic Charter," specifically a bylaw that states that the three-year residency rule only applies to a player who has previously played for a different national team and now wants to compete for a different country.
"FIBA has qualified (Blatche) to be eligible to play for the Philippines as its 'naturalized' player for the upcoming 2014 FIBA World Cup, and effectively in al FIBA sanctioned international tournaments, including the… Asian Games," the SBP said.
"He has not played for the national team of any other country, and is therefore not covered by the three-year residency requirement under the IOC and/or OCA eligibility rules, vis-à-vis the Olympic charter," the SBP also said, adding that Blatche is a "current holder of a valid Philippine passport."
SBP also cited the Technical Handbook for the Incheon Asian Games for Basketball, where it stated that "general issues" will be covered by OCA rules, while "technical issues" will be covered by FIBA rules.
"We respectfully submit that player eligibility is a 'technical issue' and should therefore follow FIBA player eligibility rules," the SBP said.
The statement has been submitted to the IAGOC "for illumination and understanding."
Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes has already addressed Blatche's eligibility issues in a previous interview, where he said: "We checked it, it doesn't apply to us. We checked it out, we took a look at the rule book, we checked it out with the organizing committee, we're fine."
Spin.ph reported on Thursday that Blatche's eligibility will be tackled on September 11 during the Asiad organizers' registration meeting, where Garcia will be present as the Philippines' chef-de-mission.
The 2014 Asian Games kicks off on September 19.