MANILA, Philippines --Getting Andray Blatche to play for the Philippines was "one in a million situation," according to former Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes.
In a wide-ranging discussion on "Coaches Unfiltered" recently, Reyes explained the kind of naturalized player that the Philippine national team needs in order to reach another level in international competitions.
During his time as head coach of Gilas, Reyes worked with Marcus Douthit and Blatche, with the latter shining for the Philippines during the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain.
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"If a player is really good, chances are he's going to play for his country or he has already played in the national team," said Reyes. "Andray Blatche was really a one in a million situation for us."
Blatche went on to play for the Philippines in the 2019 FIBA World Cup as well, but the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas said after that tournament that they are looking at other players to replace the former Brooklyn Net.
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Among the players in consideration? Beloved Ginebra import Justin Brownlee, San Miguel's Chris McCullough, and Ateneo foreign student-athlete Ange Kouame, who hails from the Ivory Coast and has been the defensive anchor for the Blue Eagles for the past two collegiate seasons.
"We need a tall guy who can play outside, because that's our advantage," said Reyes. "That's the way we give other teams problems. So if our big man can also be a stretch four or five, then that's the perfect type of player."
"If we have a 7-footer out there that is pretty young, and remember the most important part -- he has to be willing to give up his citizenship," he added. "Not really his citizenship but if he plays for the Philippine national team, he cannot play anywhere else."
Reyes noted that at the moment, there are some young Filipino prospects who may develop into the kind of player that he is talking about.
Notably, Kai Sotto and AJ Edu have already served as the country's "twin towers" in youth tournaments. Sotto is headed to the NBA G-League, where he will attempt to be the first homegrown Filipino to be drafted in the NBA. Edu is taking a more traditional path, as he is playing collegiate hoops for Toledo.
"If Kai and AJ Edu develop as we think they should, then maybe we can look at somebody more skillful, more all-around wingman type who can also play guard, forward, shoot the three," said Reyes.
At the moment, the SBP is looking at "quite a few" prospects," according to Reyes. In previous interviews, SBP President Al Panlilio has stressed the need for a pool of naturalized players, rather than risking having just one.
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Most recently, SBP director of operations Butch Antonio has said that the organization is still assessing the candidates for naturalization, and no bills have yet been filed.
"There are several names we're looking at," Reyes said, for his part. "I know the SBP, sila Coach Tab (Baldwin) are looking at several names. I'm not at liberty to divulge them, obviously, but I think that's the kind of player that we should be looking at."
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).
basketball, Gilas Pilipinas, FIBA, Chot Reyes, Andray Blatche, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, SBP, naturalization