MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE)—Naturalized Filipino center Andray Blatche and Filipino-American guard Jordan Clarkson are among the players that Yeng Guiao included in the national team pool for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Guiao revealed on Monday that he has already submitted his pool for the World Cup to the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, a list of “18 to 19 guys” that includes Clarkson and Blatche.
“Nilagay na namin doon sa pool na ’yun si Jordan Clarkson. We’re still hoping that a miracle happens, but at the same time, it’s also a backup plan," Guiao explained.
"Knock on wood, I hope nothing happens, nothing . . . no harm comes to Andray, but at least we have options on the naturalized players if something . . . if anything untoward happens. But we’re hoping and praying that we all stay healthy.”
Clarkson wore the national team colors in the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, after getting a special clearance from the NBA. However, his eligibility for the FIBA World Cup remains uncertain; it is highly likely that Gilas will need him to play as a local as Blatche is already their naturalized player.
Guiao said, however, that they are not losing hope that the Cleveland Cavaliers guard can suit up as a local in the World Cup.
“We’re still not giving up on the effort to play him as local, but kung hindi naman, backup siya ni Andray as naturalized,” said Guiao.
Upon Gilas’ qualification to the World Cup, Guiao bared that SBP is “silently working” on getting Clarkson to play for the national team. On Monday, he confirmed that the federation remains in communication with Fil-Am guard.
The coach however did not divulge the rest of his pool for the World Cup, as it is still subject to approval of the SBP.
Meanwhile, Guiao was satisfied with Blatche’s performance in his first day of practice with the national team. The former NBA player arrived in the country on Saturday, and joined the team for an intense session at the Meralco Gym on Monday night.
“Andray’s first day is good,” said Guiao. “I remember he came here for the last window, World Cup, he’s about the same shape, and we have more time to put him into better shape.”
“So mas mahaba ’yung panahon nating mag-prepare. So we’re looking forward for him to get even better and sharper and quicker,” he added.
Thirteen other players joined Blatche in practice, although June Mar Fajardo, Paul Lee, and Troy Rosario were in street clothes.
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