Teams hurt by residency rule in Asiad
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - September 24, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The three-year residency rule that knocked Andray Blatche out of the Philippine national basketball team lineup at the Asian Games in Incheon is a debatable issue subject to interpretation but Gilas team manager Aboy Castro said yesterday the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) upheld the decision that also struck out naturalized players Quincy Davis of Chinese-Taipei, Aaron Haynes of South Korea and Jerry Johnson of Kazakhstan.

Castro attended the Delegates Registration Meeting (DSR) in Incheon where the rosters of the 16 countries participating in men’s basketball were finalized last Friday. He said team managers of Kazakhstan and Jordan admitted pulling out naturalized players when news of Blatche’s disqualification spread. Kazakh team manager Nikolay Mikhalchuk said Johnson was delisted because of the three-year residency rule which was adapted in 2010. Jordan team manager Murad Barakat said coach Rajko Toroman also abandoned plans of tapping Paul Harris or Gabe Freeman to suit up in Incheon as a naturalized player.

“Apparently, this is the first time the rule was applied,” said Castro. “There are actually contradictory provisions in the eligibility rules. One provision requires a three-year residency. But another provision stipulates that the residency applies to athletes who had played for another country at the Olympics or Asian Games. So if you haven’t played for another country at the Olympics or Asian Games, the rule doesn’t apply. Andray has never played for any country at the Olympics or Asian Games. If you take the first provision out of context, then you’ll apply the rule to all naturalized players. The rule is clearly open to interpretation and the organizers conveniently interpreted it to their advantage.”

FIBA has no residency rule for naturalized players and secretary-general Patrick Baumann wrote a letter to the OCA expressing dismay over the decision to disqualify Blatche who played for the Philippines at the recent World Cup in Spain. SBP president Manny V. Pangilinan also wrote a letter to the OCA explaining why Blatche should be eligible. The OCA wouldn’t budge from its position.

Castro said the designation of Marcus Douthit to replace Blatche was not contested at the Friday meeting. Neither was Jimmy Alapag’s replacement of Jayson Castro from the 12-man cast previously submitted. Unlike in FIBA tournaments, no fee is charged to replace a player at the Asian Games.

Castro said Toroman, who used to coach Gilas and now calls the shots for Jordan, could’ve tapped veteran Rasheim Wright as his naturalized player but opted to stick with a local lineup. He would’ve considered Harris or Freeman if the rules allowed. “It was a question of chemistry for Rajko,” said Castro. “Rajko was very happy with our showing at the World Cup, calling it a great start for the Philippines and a confidence boost. That’s how Iran got started. What he mentioned was Gilas must begin looking forward because all of our players are 27 and above except for Paul (Lee) and JuneMar (Fajardo). Rajko felt the experience will go a long way in making us competitive in future international tournaments. At the Asian Games, Rajko isn’t optimistic of Jordan’s chances and thinks it will be a fight among China, Iran, South Korea and the Philippines.”

Castro said although Gilas had no practice games before leaving for Incheon, the players are upbeat and ready to battle. “We would’ve liked to play Qatar and Kuwait in practice games since they were training in Manila but we couldn’t firm up a schedule,” he said. “By the time our team was ready to play, they were gone. But our guys are confident. Ranidel (de Ocampo) was quoted as saying the only medal he has in mind is gold.”

The one player who will be missed is Asia’s No. 1 point guard Jayson Castro whose left knee is still swollen. “It was Jayson himself who begged off,” said Castro. “He was the first to tell us he wouldn’t be able to play. Even in Seville, he was already hurting and didn’t play against Senegal. He could be 80 percent for Incheon but he’d rather give up his spot to a player who’s 100 percent. That’s how Jayson is. He sacrificed himself for the good of the team.”

As for Blatche, Castro said the 6-11 center has been sending “good luck” messages to his Gilas teammates. Blatche has reportedly signed a $2.5 Million contract to play in China this season but will be available to return to the NBA by March. He is guaranteed to earn $8.4 Million as consideration from the Washington Wizards in his amnesty waiver whether he plays in the NBA or not this season. The salary from China is on top of what he will receive from the Wizards.

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