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Sports

Jinggoy questions Blatche naturalization

Alder Almo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas’ bid to acquire Brooklyn Nets center Andray Blatche as naturalized player in the coming FIBA World Cup hit a snag on Tuesday after Sen. Jinggoy Estrada questioned the move.

In the second of three readings in the Senate, Estrada questioned the sincerity of Blatche in acquiring a Filipino citizenship aside from basketball.

“Masyado naman yata tayong cheap kung magbibigay kaagad tayo ng Filipino citizenship kung kanino na lang,” Estrada said during the senate hearing on Tuesday.

Sen. Sonny Angara, who authored Senate Bill 2108 which is an offshoot of Rep. Robbie Puno’s House Bill 4084, countered that current Gilas’ naturalized player Marcus Douthit did not meet such opposition in 2010.

“In the same way si Marcus Douthit ay wala rin hong nagawa sa Pilipinas nung ni-naturalize natin in 2010. We took a leap of faith and that paid dividends sa pag-qualify ng bansa natin sa FIBA World Cup,” Angara persuading Estrada.

Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes, who was in attendance, said it’s not easy to find an NBA player who wanted to play for the Philippines.  

It’s not a matter of pagalingan, it’s a matter kung sino ang magaling na gustong maging Pilipino and that’s Andray Blatche,” Reyes told reporters after the Senate hearing.

He even assured the senators that Blatche personally told him that he wants to make the Philippines his second home.

“He is single and he told me he is hoping to find a Filipina wife,” Reyes said.

Douthit, the first naturalized player under the Gilas program, has made Philippines his home since acquiring Filipino citizenship in 2010 even sending his kids to an international school here.

In a separate interview after the Game Three of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals, Reyes told Philstar.com that they have answered well Sen. Estrada’s questions.

“Wala namang hinihingi [na additional requirements]. May mga tanong lang si Sen. Jinggoy but well, may mga sagot naman tayo. That’s the prerogative talaga ng mga senators eh,” Reyes said.

The Gilas head coach is hoping that Blatche will be naturalized within the next two weeks.   

“I think we’re still within the timetable naman. Hopefully, maayos na by Monday,” Reyes said.  

The deadline for submission of proof of citizenship of naturalized players is set on July 15, one and a half month before the FIBA World Cup tips off in the last week of August in Spain.

Blatche and his Brooklyn Nets are currently battling defending champion Miami Heat in the second round of the NBA Playoffs. 

ANDRAY BLATCHE

BROOKLYN NETS

CHOT REYES

CUP FINALS

GAME THREE

GILAS PILIPINAS

HOUSE BILL

MARCUS DOUTHIT

REYES

WORLD CUP

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