More naturalized players good for Gilas, Chua says

Rey Joble

Posted at Jun 25 2022 11:04 AM

Chot agrees, but such a plan not easy

Since the Philippines qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 40 years, the consensus by basketball experts is to bring in more naturalized players who can be tapped anytime for major international tournament.

Such idea was brought up by Yeng Guiao, a former national team coach, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas chairman Senator Sonny Angara, and lately, Barangay Ginebra board governor Alfrancis Chua. 

“Balita ko pilay daw si (Ange) Kouame. Paano ’yun? Kailangan kumuha tayo ng mga tatlo, apat, limang papa-naturalized natin where we can choose. Kailangan derecho tayo kung sino yung makukuha. Ask the coach, it’s not about the name. It’s about a player kung anong kulang natin sa team. Malaki ba, maliit ba? Ano’ng kailangan? Mag-ipon dapat tayo kung sino’ng papa-naturalize natin para makatulong sa 2023,” said Chua.

The Philippines will be one of the hosts in the FIBA World Cup alongside Japan and Indonesia. This will be the first time the country will be hosting such humongous event since 1978. 

Over the past few years, the Philippines was left scrounging for a naturalized player each time something unforeseen happened.

Gilas Pilipinas was forced to tap an out-of-shape Andray Blatche for the FIBA Asia Cup in 2015.

While the team was trying to fast-track the NBA veteran in game shape, Blatche had to go through soup diet to catch weight.

In the past, the Philippines had the luxury of having multiple naturalized players as seen in the early 1980s when the Northern Consolidated Cement-backed national squad was able to bring in Jeff Moore, Dennis Still and Chip Engelland to play in major international competitions.

In the end, Moore and Still were the only ones who stayed on much longer and helped the Philippines in winning the Asian Basketball Confederation (now known as FIBA Asia Cup) title, which was played from late December 1985 to early January of 1986 in Kuala Lumpur.

It was the last Philippine team to rule the Asian basketball event. 

Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes agreed on the observation that it’s a luxury to have multiple naturalized players at your disposal, but believes doing so won’t be easy.

“It’s always nice to have some backups in mind, but it’s not easy. If we talk to an American or an NBA player, ano sasabihin natin sa kanya? ‘We will naturalize you, pero backup ka lang ha?’ Hindi puwede, hindi ba? I know it’s good to have options, but realistically, think about how difficult it is to execute. And then, we have another player by the name of Jordan Clarkson, who is also going to be a naturalized player. So it’s not as easy saying, ‘O, kailangan may backup tayo.’ Hindi ganung ka-simple ’yun,” said Reyes.

Clarkson played as a local player for the national team during the 2018 Asian Games and Guiao had to choose between Stanley Pringle and Christian Standhardinger as naturalized players for every game during the Asiad basketball tournament.

The NBA star’s situation is a lot different in the FIBA-sanctioned events and the SBP is trying to find ways bringing in Clarkson to play as a local player just like what other countries were able to do.