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Blatche or Christian for WC qualifiers

Gilas head coach Chot Reyes said the other day either Andray Blatche or Christian Standhardinger will play for the Philippine national team as a naturalized import to start the first home-and-away window in the FIBA Asia/Pacific qualifiers for the 2019 FIBA World Cup while ruling out 7-1 Isaiah Austin in the early going.

There will be six home-and-away windows leading to the FIBA World Cup in China in 2019. The first window is scheduled on Nov. 20-28 involving 16 teams bracketed in four groups. The Philippines is in Group B with Japan, Chinese-Taipei and Australia. The next two windows will be on Feb. 19-27 and June 25-July 3. The top three finishers of each group will be split into two groups of six for the second round of home-and-away games. The first window of the second round will be on Sept. 17-25 and the next two windows are set on Nov. 26-Dec. 4 and Feb. 18-26.

Gilas team manager Butch Antonio confirmed that the Philippines will make its home-and-away debut against Japan in a road game on Nov. 24. A proposal by Japan to advance the schedule to Nov. 23 has been withdrawn. The Philippines then takes on Chinese-Taipei at home on Nov. 27. The first two games are scheduled before the PBA opens its new season on Dec. 17.

Under terms of the MOA between the SBP and PBA, Gilas cadets in PBA teams will be released 60 days before a qualifying tournament for the World Cup or Olympics or the FIBA Asia Cup or the Asian Games. If Nov. 24 is the date of reckoning, Gilas cadets may be tapped as early as Sept. 25. PBA veterans may be released starting Nov. 9. PBA teams will allow at least one veteran to be recruited for Gilas. At the recent FIBA Asia Cup in Lebanon, Rain Or Shine released two veterans Gabe Norwood and Raymond Almazan to Gilas as the option to give up more than one player is voluntary.

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Since the PBA won’t begin its next season until Dec. 17, cadets and veterans taken by Gilas won’t miss any conference games if they play Japan on Nov. 24 and Chinese-Taipei on Nov. 27. This will open up the possibility of Gilas enlisting Japeth Aguilar and Greg Slaughter from Ginebra to form a stratospheric frontline with San Miguel Beer’s June Mar Fajardo, assuming the management of their mother clubs agree.

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Reyes said he is awaiting advice from the PBA as to when the cadets and veterans may be called for Gilas practice. He said Austin is out of the question for the November games. Austin’s naturalization is an option but the process will take at least three months to go through Congress.

Reyes said Blatche or Standhardinger will play for Gilas in the first round of the home-and-away series. However, their time to practice with Gilas will be limited as by then, Blatche will be playing for Xinjiang in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) and Standhardinger for Hong Kong in the ABL.

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“No problem on Andray’s release by the CBA but the question is how soon can he come to practice,” said Reyes. “I doubt if they’ll give him 15 days to practice.” Reyes said Blatche, who begged off from suiting up for the Philippines at the recent FIBA Asia Cup, is in the Xinjiang lineup for the FIBA Asia Champions Cup in Chenzhou on Sept. 22-30. Blatche has a year left in his Xinjiang contract.

The Philippines and Japan didn’t face off in Lebanon because they were in different brackets. Japan finished ninth and the Philippines, seventh in the FIBA Asia Cup. Japan beat Chinese-Taipei, 87-49 and Hong Kong, 92-59 but lost to Australia, 84-68 and South Korea, 81-68 in the tournament. The game against Chinese-Taipei was a prelude to their home-and-away series in the World Cup qualifiers.

Standhardinger, 28, is half-Filipino, half-German but under FIBA rules, he is not eligible as a Filipino local because he was issued his Philippine passport after turning 16. So his eligibility with Gilas is strictly as a naturalized import despite his Filipino heritage. It’s the same reason why Jordan Clarkson and Stanley Pringle are eligible only as naturalized imports. SBP executive director Sonny Barrios has suggested DNA testing to FIBA to determine bloodline as a basis for a player’s eligibility as a local.

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