McGee tapped for Smart Gilas

by Nelson Beltran, The Philippine Star

Posted at Oct 30 2011 08:36 AM | Updated as of Oct 30 2011 04:36 PM

MANILA, Philippines - If everything falls into place, Smart Gilas Pilipinas will have the Washington Wizards’ seven-foot center JaVale McGee as naturalized player for the next FIBA Asia championship.

McGee had been in the country twice in the last four months and, in his last visit, expressed willingness to be part of the Philippine team vying for a slot in the 2014 World Championship.

The STAR source said McGee and the Smart Gilas people have reached an agreement to pursue the same direction Marcus Douthit had gone through enabling the latter to play for the Phl team in the recent Asian joust in Tianjin, China.

“If ever, we will have a taller, younger naturalized player to match up with Hamed Haddadi, Yi Jianlian and the like,” The STAR source said.

Douthit, who led the Nationals to a fourth-place finish in Tianjin, became a naturalized Filipino through an act of Congress initiated by Antipolo Rep. Robbie Puno.

The same lawmaker is likely to sponsor the bill for McGee.

The 23-year-old Flint, Michigan native is eligible to play as naturalized player for any country since he has never played for the US team.

McGee actually received invites to the US team’s mini camp in 2009 and 2010. He played in a scrimmage at Radio City Music Hall during the 2010 World Basketball Festival but failed to impress and was cut on Aug. 15, 2010.

He’s now connected with Smart-PLDT as product endorser.

He signed a contract with the telecommunication giant company only a few days back. While here, he had a meet-and-greet session with fans at the Jump Experience Center and graced a basketball clinic.

As Smart endorser, there’s also the possibility of McGee playing as import for Talk n Text in the PBA second conference if the NBA lockout is not resolved.

McGee, selected 18th overall by the Wizards in the 2008 NBA draft, first visited Manila last July as part of the NBA All-Star team that played a two-game series versus the PBA Selection and the Smart Gilas team.

In the last NBA All-Star festivities, McGee made a good showing in the slam-dunk contest, placing second to eventual winner Blake Griffin.

The Guinness Book of World Records cited McGee as the first player to stuff in three balls at one time in a dunk contest. The third ball was passed by teammate John Wall.

McGee played two years of college ball for University of Nevada in Reno then applied for eligibility in the 2008 NBA Draft.

He made a career-high of 12 blocks on March 15, 2011, and it went down as the most done by any NBA player in a game since Keon Clark got the same number on March 23, 2001.

If ever, McGee banners Smart Gilas II that may again be a mix of good amateur talents and PBA stars.

Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and the PBA have been in touch, now laying the formula for the formation of the team.

Determined to sustain its gain in Asian basketball, SBP has made a bid to host the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship.