By REYNALD MAGALLON
Gilas Pilipinas program director Chot Reyes revealed that NorthPort forward Jamie Malonzo can play as a local in the national team.
According to Reyes, it turned out that Malonzo was already a Philippine passport holder since he was eight years old and FIBA has already given its approval to allow Malonzo represent the country in FIBA-sanctioned events.
Under FIBA rules, players with dual citizenship have to acquire the passport of the country they wish to represent before they turn 16 years old — the same rule that barred elite Fil-American players in the PBA like Christian Standhardinger and Stanley Pringle from suiting up for the national team as a local.
“Piinapunta ko sa Las Vegas and nag-usap kami. He had his passport when he was eight years old so he’s eligible,” said Reyes, recalling his conversation with Malonzo in Las Vegas when he was scouting for Fil-foreign players for the youth team.
Reyes also confirmed that Malonzo is now eligible to join the national team in the coming windows and in the FIBA 2023 World Cup which the country will be co-hosting with Japan and Indonesia.
Although part of the pool, Reyes said the 6-foot-7 forward is still not a sure pick for one of the 12 roster spots in the national team.
“We brought the passport in and went through the process in FIBA. Now he’s part of the FIBA World Cup as a local player. We’re not saying that he’s gonna make the team but at least he’s eligible, there’s one thing about eligibility and another thing about finally making the team,” said Reyes.
Either way, Malonzo’s addition to the national team pool was a big boost to the Gilas program as he provides size and athleticism on the wing position for the national team. The 25-year-old forward has also been putting up a stellar performance so far in the PBA averaging a double-double of 17.4 points and 12.6 rebounds.
“He knows it, the PBA board knows it so hopefully the soonest possible time na pwede siya we have to see how he plays with the other guys and how he plays in international competition,” said Reyes.
“Ibang-iba ‘yung international it’s a different animal altogether so he has to be able to feel that as well.”