By Jerome Lagunzad
Already facing the specter of playing in next month’s FIBA Asia Cup without high-profile PBA cagers like three-time league MVP June Mar Fajardo, Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes has another pressing problem to deal with.
Though Fil-German Christian Standhardinger got the green light from FIBA to suit up for the Philippines, his Gilas stint remains uncertain.
That’s because his status with FIBA is not as a local player but as a naturalized player – meaning Reyes has to pick between him and top option Andray Blatche as the Nationals’ reinforcement for the August 8-20 showpiece in Beirut, Lebanon.
According to the sports’ world governing body, the 6-foot-8 Standhardinger, whose mother Elizabeth Santos Hermoso traces her roots to Angono, Rizal, could only play as import for Gilas in FIBA-sanctioned events since “he was born in Germany and did not get his Philippine passport before the age of 16.”
He also suited up for the Germany’s U-18 national team in 2007.
The latest development could further alter the national team’s plans since Reyes is still waiting for the go-signal from five PBA teams – reportedly San Miguel, Ginebra, Star, Alaska and GlobalPort – to lend the likes of the 6-foot-10 Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, Allein Maliksi, Calvin Abueva and Terrence Romeo for the continental meet made tougher with the entry of Oceania powerhouse Australia and New Zealand.
The Philippines is pooled with defending champion China, Middle East contender Qatar, and West Asian qualifier Iraq at Group B.
Instead of being alarmed, Gilas Pilipinas team manager Butch Antonio is sticking to the positives, saying Standhardinger can assure the Nationals of a needed help if and when the 30-year-old Blatche, who’s currently tied up to the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in China, becomes unavailable for the 2019 FIBA World Cup home-and-away qualifying tourney starting in November.
“It might not be everyday na Andray will be available. It’s good to have options,” said Antonio yesterday following Gilas Pilipinas’ close 39-37 win over PBA club Phoenix in a glorified tuneup match at The UpperDeck Sports Center in Pasig City.