MANILA, Philippines - Smart Gilas Pilipinas is now preparing to negotiate with Marcus Douthit for a new contract while keeping its line open for NBA player Javale McGee as another option for naturalization.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Manny V. Pangilinan, Smart Sports official Patrick Gregorio, Smart Gilas operations director Butch Antonio and coaches Chot Reyes and Ryan Gregorio had an informal meeting on the Gilas plans for the coming year this Monday.
"Douthit's playing contract in the Chinese league is expiring in February or March. We'll start negotiating to get Marcus back," Antonio told The STAR.
Marcus' initial contract with Smart Gilas lapsed last October. He was allowed to enter into a deal with a Chinese ballclub so that he can continue playing and stay in competitive form.
"We're now getting him back as we’re now forming the national pool," said Antonio.
At the same time, Antonio said McGee is still an option even as the NBA has resumed.
"He's still there. Chot (Reyes) is the one talking with them (McGee camp). We're really looking at a long-term program, and you need a 20-plus-year-old naturalized player to move up," said Antonio.
If ever, Smart Gilas would maintain two naturalized players in its fold. Douthit can't be cut, especially with McGee's naturalization papers not yet being processed.
The STAR has reported that McGee has expressed interest to play for Smart Gilas as a naturalized player. McGee currently endorses a Smart-PLDT brand.
McGee is younger, taller and more agile player than Douthit. The 23-year-old Washington Wizard, a seven-foot dunker, can well match up better with the likes of Yi Jianlian of China and Hamed Haddadi of Iran.
Antonio said Smart Gilas coaches would get together within the month to invite players who will form the national pool.
The current pool of coaches includes Reyes, Gregorio and Norman Black. SBP is open to another deal with Rajko Toroman and is also keen on inviting former national coaches Tim Cone and Jong Uichico.
Smart-PLDT is running a program for Smart Gilas II with a goal of making the World Championship in 2014.
The 2013 FIBA Asia Championship serves as the regional qualifier for the world joust. The top three advance to the World Championship.
The original Smart Gilas team narrowly missed the top three in the 2011 Asian championship, yielding a won ball game to Korea in the fight for third.
With practically all members of the original team having turned pro, the Smart management is now looking at the players of Sinag Pilipinas to make the core of the Smart Gilas II.
Sinag Pilipinas, which won for the country the basketball gold medal in the recent SEA Games, were made up of Greg Slaughter, Jake Pascual, Garvo Lanete, Nico Salva, Chris Ellis, Cliff Hodge, Dave Marcelo, Bobby Ray Parks, Kiefer Ravena, RR Garcia, Eman Monfort and Chris Tiu.