MANILA, Philippines – A Fil-foreign player, playing outside the PBA, may join the Gilas Pilipinas pool from which two separate teams will be formed to compete in the FIBA Asia Cup and in the Southeast Asian Games late this year.
“Coach Josh (Reyes) and our other coaches have been talking to their friends,” said Gilas team manager Butch Antonio on the possibility of a Fil-foreign player coming on board to beef up the pool.
“In case of Fil-foreign players, they’re automatically eligible to play for our team but as a naturalized player,” Antonio pointed out.
Naturalized player Andray Blatche is to arrive in the next few days to suit up for Gilas in the SEABA Championship at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on May 12-18. And he’s likely to return later on to also don the national jersey in the FIBA Asia Cup in Beirut in August.
A Fil-foreign player coming over and playing as a naturalized player of Team Phl in the SEA Games in Malaysia also in August is a possibility.
Dontee Greene and Greg Smith are among PBA imports who have expressed willingness to undergo naturalization process for a chance to suit up with Gilas.
But naturalization through legislation is a long process, and Gilas coach Chot Reyes is realistic they can’t consider these imports in their coming international competitions.
Recommended by the Blackwater management, Smith showed up in the Gilas practice session at the Meralco Gym Thursday night. Greene had had his earlier workout with Gilas.
"Team management (Blackwater) asked me if I want to be part of Gilas and I said, wow, why not," said Smith. "It's an opportunity for me to perform with these guys, the best players in the country. Why not?"
Gilas is really looking to form a pool of naturalized players so the team will always have a backup in case Blatche is not available.
Reyes said their priority are players who can be on the floor with June Mar Fajardo.
“Obviously, we're also very interested with Alex Stepheson but we think he will be essentially playing the same position with June Mar. The thing with Dontae and Greg is their ability to play with June Mar,” said Reyes.
Reyes said they will be open for discussion with these imports after the SEABA Championship.