By Waylon Galvez
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) will reach out to the FIBA to allow Jordan Clarkson to join hands with naturalized player Andray Blatche when Gilas competes in the 2019 World Cup in China set Aug. 31 to Sept. 15.
“We are working on it for quite sometime now,” said Panlilio in a text message Tuesday to the Bulletin. “We will exert all our efforts just to make it happen for the country… para sa bayan.”
Clarkson, whose mother is from the Philippines, played for the national team during last year’s Asian Games in Jakarta after both FIBA and the NBA – particularly his team Cleveland Cavaliers – allowed him to see action.
The Asian Games has a different rule in dealing with players that fall under naturalized player category since it follows its own Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) bylaws, which is different from FIBA.
FIBA allows just one naturalized player per tournament, making it virtually impossible for the 6-foot-5 Clarkson and the center Blatche to team up.
But if the world cage federation reverses its earlier rule on the Fil-Am Clarkson, it’s going to be an explosive roster for Gilas in the World Cup following Blatche’s impressive showing in the qualifiers and Clarkson’s eye-catching performance in Indonesia last year.
Blatche, a former NBA player, has expressed his willingness to don the Gilas jersey when the Philippines stands side by side with 31 other world-caliber squads.
“Everyone is proud and everyone is thankful. I’m just very thankful for the opportunity to represent the Philippines,” Blatche. “The hard part now is to get ready and prepare for the World Cup.”
Blatche returned to China early Tuesday to continue his stint with the Tianjin Golden Lions where he will play six more games before returning to Atlanta for a much-needed rest with his family.
After that, Blatche said he is ready to resume with the rigorous training for the World Cup, which may include a possible stint in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup that allows imports not taller than 6-foot-10.
Though the former Washington Wizard and Brooklyn Net is listed at 6-foot-11, national team mentor Yeng Guiao – also the coach of the NLEX Road Warriors – said that Blatche was measured below 6-foot-10 while they were in Astana prior to the Kazakhstan game.
“He mentioned that wants to play in the PBA… but I don’t know yet which team,” said Guiao, whose team NLEX is under the umbrella of the MVP group of companies – headed by Gilas benefactor Manny V. Pangilinan – together with the TNT KaTropa and the Meralco Bolts.
Coach coach Yeng Guiao said he will meet with his coaching staff as he is expected to bare his training pool roster of the national team next month for the World Cup and Blatche is expected to be on top of the list.
“Words can’t expressed how much I feel… I feel very proud. We put so much in to get back to the World Cup,” said Blatche, who first played as naturalized for Gilas in the 2014 World Cup in Spain.
“It wasn’t just my performance, it was a team performance. It’s a very special moment for us. We are extremely proud, definitely one for the books. The one mission is to win the two games, and we got it done.”
The national team joins host China in the World Cup, as well as qualified teams Australia, Iran, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan and Jordan.