Giant Fil-Aussie kid applies for PH passport, dreams of Gilas stint

Alder Almo - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines – Fil-Australian Ethan Kirkness took the first step in his quest of playing for the country in the future by applying for a Philippines a passport.  

The 6-foot-8 kid who will turn 14 hopes to get his Philippine passport before his birthday on February 23 next year.  FIBA requires a dual citizen to be holding a passport of the country which he wants to represent in their official tournaments before he reaches the age of 16.

“It will take up to eight weeks to process.  Hopefully, it will be released by the first week of January,” Michael Kirkness, Ethan’s father, told Philstar.com on Wednesday.

The Kirkness family has been following the Batang Gilas’ campaign in the FIBA Asia U16.

“Yes, we’ve been following their games. They beat China last night and we congratulate them for showing big heart despite their center only standing 6’4”.  Imagine, if we can get Ethan playing there,” Michael said.

On Tuesday night, the Batang Gilas with only UPIS big man Will Gozum standing tallest at 6’4” dealt China, whose average height is 6’6”, its first ever loss in the history of tournament ending the three-time champion’s winning streak at 33 games with a stirring 78-72 victory.

It was redemption of sorts for the country as the senior national team lost to China in the gold medal game of the FIBA Asia men’s championship in Changsha, China last month.

The Kirkness family has long been dreaming of Ethan playing for Batang Gilas and hopefully the men’s senior team in the future ever since the country returned to basketball prominence starting off with the silver medal run in the 2013 FIBA Asia tournament and a gallant stand in the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

Ethan, whose mother is the 5-foot-10 former Dinah Blando from Dumaguete, went to the country last year with the whole family to attend a relative’s wedding and at the same time check out potential school for him with good basketball programs.

Though nothing concrete came out of the Kirkness’ trip here that was highlighted by campus visits to San Beda, La Salle, Ateneo and NU, Michael is still hoping that a benefactor would sponsor his son’s further development in basketball.  

“He is doing well but we need access to better training.  He’s just playing in school and local competition but is very low level,” Michael said.

Ethan is currently playing for Southport High School and at the same time with the Gold Coast Seahawks U16 team in Queensland, Australia.

Last June, Ethan had a chance to work out with Chicago Bulls’ Australian big man Cameron Bairstow.  

Ethan Kirkness working out with Chicago Bulls' sophomore forward Cameron Bairstow last June. 

Recently, Michael took Ethan to Sydney and watched the Sydney Kings play the Townsville Crocs.

The Kings won that game, 87-78, on Al Harrington’s debut with the team.  Harrington finished with 12 while another former NBA player Marcus Thornton hit 14 for the home team.

The Kings’ 6-foot-10 center Julian Khazzouh, who led the team with 22 points, nine boards and six blocks in the game, was shocked to learn that Ethan is only 13 years old.

“You need to talk to someone from the Kings pronto,” Khazzouh was quoted saying to Michael.

Ethan Kirkness with Sydney Kings' 6-foot-10 star center Julian Khazzouh. 

“I put a sign on Ethan’s back saying he’s only 13.  Everyone [in the arena] thinks he is 18,” Michael recounted.  “The game has plenty of tall men there so until they know his age, they just look past you.”

Michael and his family want Ethan’s heft and height to be developed and put into good use.  And they are hoping it would be the Philippines rather than Australia which he will represent down the road as FIBA Asia and Oceania will be merged in the new World Cup and Olympic qualifying tournament that is set to be introduced next year. 

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