SBP to build naturalized pool
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - January 10, 2020 - 12:00am

For the first window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers next month, Gilas will tap either Christian Standhardinger or Stanley Pringle to play for Gilas as a naturalized citizen even if both are considered duals under Philippine law.

It’s a quirk in FIBA’s rules that allow Standhardinger and Pringle to play for Gilas only as a naturalized citizen because they were issued their Philippine passports after they turned 16 regardless of their Filipino heritage. Curiously, FIBA will allow a foreigner to represent the country where he or she was born even without blood roots. It’s the classic distinction of jus soli or citizenship by birthright and jus sanguinis or citizenship by blood. For years, SBP has appealed to FIBA to respect Philippine law which allows citizenship by blood without naturalization.

Both Standhardinger and Pringle have played in FIBA competitions as naturalized players. Standhardinger played against Iran in the fourth and fifth windows of the FIBA Asia/Oceania World Cup qualifiers in 2018 while Pringle suited up against Qatar and Kazakhstan, also in the fourth and fifth windows that year. They took over from Andray Blatche who served a three-game suspension from FIBA tournaments because of his participation in the Philippines-Australia brawl in July 2018.

The Philippines will play Thailand at home on Feb. 20 and Indonesia on the road on Feb. 23 in the first window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers. SBP plans to deploy its pool of amateur standouts reinforced by PBA players for both games. It won’t be a problem to recruit PBA players as the pro league’s 45th season is scheduled to start on Sunday, March 1.

Pringle will be coming off the Governors Cup finals which end on Jan. 22 if the series goes to a Game 7 while Standhardinger wound up his PBA season with NorthPort last Dec. 20. Another Fil-Am eligible to play for Gilas as a naturalized citizen is Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson but he won’t be available in February because of the ongoing NBA season.

The Gilas naturalized players cleared by FIBA without Filipino blood are Andray Blatche and Marcus Douthit. SBP president Al Panlilio recently said the plan is to form a pool of two or three foreigners for naturalization. Ginebra import Justin Brownlee is a candidate. Other former PBA imports like Chris McCullough and K. J. McDaniels have said they’re open to the concept of naturalization.

Because of the proximity of the first window, Panlilio said SBP will designate an interim Gilas head coach. He said Tab Baldwin will serve as a director of the Gilas program and isn’t a coaching candidate, either interim or permanent. The interim Gilas head coach could be a PBA head or assistant coach. Several coaches from abroad have applied for the permanent position and documents are now being compiled. Panlilio said he will seek PBA chairman Ricky Vargas’ assistance as a human resources expert to go through the applications and recommend the top candidates for the job. “We’ve got some time to decide on the permanent Gilas coach since the second window will still be in November,” said Panlilio.

A possibility for the coming first window is 7-1 Kai Sotto who’s playing for Mighty Sports in the Dubai International Tournament on Jan. 23-Feb. 1. Thirdy Ravena is also seeing action in Dubai and may also be in the Gilas team for the first window. Ravena is in SBP’s new pool with Isaac Go, Rey Suerte, Matt Nieto, Allyn Bulanadi, Mike Nieto and Jaydee Tungcab.

“Thirdy’s committed to play for Gilas and he’s set his sights on the 2023 FIBA World Cup,” said Panlilio. “Right now, he’s looking at options to play in Japan or Australia. He’s hoping to follow in his brother Kiefer’s footsteps and develop his game overseas. We’ve told Thirdy that if he signs a contract with a Japanese or Australian team, there should be a clause to allow him to play for Gilas when he’s called up.”

Panlilio said the Gilas pool will be fluid. “We expect it to be changing,” he said. “Players will come and go. When the next PBA draft comes, maybe we’ll use the same formula we did for 2019 and bring the first five picks to the pool. We’re working closely with the PBA to find out the best approach to forming a competitive national team with 2023 in mind.”

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