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Austin out to make case for naturalization in Chooks Pilipinas' Champions Cup bid

Isaiah Austin during one of Chooks-to-Go's many practice sessions as the Meralco Gym | Philstar.com Photo/Michael Gaptandan

MANILA, Philippines – If the chips fall into their respective places, Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas’ import Isaiah Austin will be on a collision course with naturalized Filipino and longtime Gilas big man Andray Blatche in a club tournament in China.

And it couldn’t be more timely for the 7-foot-1 Austin as it could be a on opportunity for him to reinforce his bid for a Filipino citizenship.

"I've seen a lot of his games, I know his style of play. He's a very crafty player, very good post player,” the 23-year-old California native said of Blatche. "Whenever I can, I study film of a lot of players and I can definitely learn a lot of things from watching him play.”

Austin will be leading a pack of young Filipinos in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup set to begin this Saturday in China. Waiting on the other side of the groupings is China Kashgar, which is bannered by Blatche — Philippines’ old reliable in many of its international conquests.

The former Baylor University standout, who has found a new lease on life in basketball overseas, is the biggest testament to the Philippines’ famed rallying cry “puso.” He returned to competitive basketball in 2016 after being momentarily held down by a genetic disorder. Now, he is one of the Reyes and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas’ primary candidates for naturalization in hopes of addressing the national team’s perennial big man puzzle.

With Gilas, Isaiah Austin found a chance to play basketball again

“It's always exciting to be able to go against great competition. But as a basketball player, I was thought to nevery back down from anybody,” Austin said of the possibility of facing the Chinese club.

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Chooks Pilipinas, which in the past ruled the skirmish for multiple times, will open their bid for supremacy against BC Astana of Kazakhstan Friday. They will take on Sareyyet Ramallah Palestine next, and then Mono Vampire of Thailand. The Fillipinos will wrap the group phase with a tussle with Iran’s Petrochimi.

"When it comes time for us to match up, I'm gonna play hard, that's all I can do,” Austin declared.

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