No import for Gilas
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - October 9, 2019 - 12:00am

Gilas is going all local in men’s basketball for the coming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games but it’s no indication that coach Tim Cone is taking the opposition lightly. “Indonesia is leaving for Serbia to play nine games and they’re preparing hard,” he said yesterday.

Serbian coach Rajko Toroman is now calling the shots for Indonesia with strong backing from media magnate and Indonesian Olympic Committee president Erick Thohir. Indonesia finished second to the Philippines in the last two SEA Games and badly wants to sit on the throne that has been the Filipinos’ property in 17 of 19 conclaves since 1977.

Cone said the SEA Games won’t be a “slam dunk,” meaning he doesn’t expect a cakewalk. In the 2015 final, the Philippines beat Indonesia, 72-64, with a naturalized player Marcus Douthit in harness. Douthit’s teammates were Kiefer Ravena, Troy Rosario, Scottie Thompson, Baser Amer, Glenn Khobuntin, Almond Vosotros, Norbert Torres, Mac Belo, Jiovani Jalalon, Kevin Ferrer and Prince Rivero.

In the 2017 final, Gilas battled without an import and crushed Indonesia, 94-55. The players were Mike Tolomia, Von Pessumal, Ferrer, Carl Bryan Cruz, Rosario, Vosotros, Toto Jose, Amer, Ray Ray Parks, Ravena, Kobe Paras and Christian Standhardinger.

For this year’s edition, Cone has assembled a pool of 15. Because of limited preparation time, Cone chose players who are familiar with his system and veterans of the international game. That’s why he picked six from his PBA team Ginebra – L. A. Tenorio, Thompson, Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar, Stanley Pringle and Art de la Cruz. He also called up San Miguel Beer’s Chris Ross, Marcio Lassiter, June Mar Fajardo and Standhardinger, TNT’s Troy Rosario, R. R. Pogoy and Jayson Castro, Alaska’s Vic Manuel and Phoenix’ Matthew Wright.

“We won’t announce the 12 until close to the deadline and a lot will depend on health,” said Cone. “We might get one or two games with an ABL team.” With the PBA Governors Cup in full swing, Cone has no luxury of long hours of practice. Getting the players to learn, appreciate and play within his system is the priority.

Under Asian Games and SEA Games rules, a player who submits a passport of a country he is representing without going through the naturalization process is considered a local. The eligibility rules in FIBA are different. FIBA will recognize a foreign-born player as a local only if he was issued his passport before turning 16. It’s the reason why Standhardinger, Pringle and Ross are classified as naturalized players by FIBA even if they’re half-Filipinos.

Under Philippine law, a person with Filipino lineage is entitled to Filipino citizenship without going through the naturalization process. So Standhardinger, Pringle, Ross, Lassiter and Wright never went through the naturalization process by law that Douthit and Andray Blatche experienced.

SBP president Al Panlilio confirmed the SEA Games rule is like in the Asian Games. Panlilio’s special assistant Ryan Gregorio added, “Eligibility rules in the Asian Games are the same as the SEA Games … Christian and Stanley both played as locals in the Asian Games.”

Cone affirmed it. “The SEA Games, like the Asian Games, are not under FIBA so therefore, do not use FIBA eligibility rules,” he said. “You only have to have a passport from your home country to be eligible so Christian and Stanley are eligible to play as local players. Teams are allowed one naturalized player which we won’t avail of.”

Indonesia will bring in former PBA import Denzel Bowles as its naturalized player. It’s not certain if Thailand will recruit an import to play alongside Thai-American Tyler Lamb of UCLA and Long Beach State.

Gilas assistant coach Jong Uichico, who piloted the Philippines to a pair of SEA Games gold medals, said playing without a naturalized import isn’t a handicap. “We’ll be all right,” he said. “We’re capable in every position. We’ve got three bigs, JuneMar, Christian and Greg. We’ve got top point guards, Jayson, L. A., Stanley and Chris. We’ve got great shooters, Matthew, R. R. and Marcio with Scottie and Art playing utility. Then, we’ve got Troy who can play three or four and Japeth and Vic who can play four or five. It will be very difficult for coach Tim to decide whom to cut but that’s the way it is. It’s a wonderful opportunity to be selected to the pool and I think everyone is ready to accept whatever is the decision on the final 12 for the good of our country.”

Uichico said Castro’s return is a welcome development. “L. A.’s fast, Stanley’s fast, Chris’ fast but Jayson plays at a different level,” he said. “For me, Jayson is still Asia’s No. 1 point guard and we’re lucky he’s back with the national team.”


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