Affirmation in Munich
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - July 7, 2020 - 12:00am

In 1983, the Philippines was bushwhacked into forfeiting two wins in the preliminaries of the Asian Basketball Confederation (now known as FIBA Asia) Championships in Hong Kong and denied a spot in the quarterfinals because two supposedly ineligible naturalized players Jeff Moore and Dennis Still saw action in the group stage. Moore and Still were disqualified “after the fact” because they were accused of failing to comply with the three-year residency rule despite stamps in their passports.

The next year, the seven-man FIBA eligibility committee met before the FIBA Congress in Munich and confirmed that Moore and Still could play for the Philippines effective immediately. If they were guilty of violating the three-year residency rule in 1983, why did it take only one year to declare their eligibility? Clearly, FIBA saw through the stealth of the Pearl Harbor attack on the Philippines in Hong Kong and made things right.

FIBA president Lito Puyat sent a letter to FIBA secretary-general Borislav Stankovic affirming the three-year residence of Moore and Still through Basketball Association of the Philippines (precursor of SBP) secretary-general Moying Martelino who attended the eligibility meeting in Munich. Puyat also phoned Stankovic to set the record straight. Too bad Puyat wasn’t in Hong Kong to spare the Philippines from falling into the conspirators’ trap.

During the FIBA Congress, it was decided to limit each national team to one naturalized player but the rule was not retroactive so countries with two previously approved foreigners could continue to list them in their rosters. That same Congress approved the introduction of the three-point shot in FIBA competitions. Eventually, the three-year rule for naturalized players was waived and national teams were permitted to add one or more foreigners if they were exceptions or “marginal cases,” meaning those who acquired citizenship by birth or through marriage or by establishing several years of residence. A case in point is the Australian team that enlisted two foreigners in the recent FIBA Asia/Pacific World Cup Qualifiers – Sudan-born Thon Maker (who relocated to Australia when he was five) and US-born Kevin Lisch, neither of whom is Australian by heritage.

After FIBA gave its go-signal for Moore and Still to play for the Philippines, coach Ron Jacobs began to assemble the national team for the ABC Interclub Championships in Ipoh, Malaysia, on Nov. 22-Dec. 3, 1984. Winner of the tournament earned a ticket to represent Asia at the FIBA World Clubs Championships in Spain the next year. Since it was a club competition, each team could recruit up to two imports in addition to naturalized players. Jacobs tapped Duke standout Chip Engelland as import since FIBA declared his eligibility as a naturalized player to still be effective in 1986. He formed a 13-man cast to play under the Northern Cement banner – Moore, Still, Engelland, Hector Calma, Franz Pumaren, Jun Tan, Jong Uichico, Al Solis, Samboy Lim, Elmer Reyes, Yves Dignadice, Anthony Mendoza and Tonichi Yturri. Jacobs could’ve brought in one more import but opted not to.

There were initially 16 teams registered to play in Ipoh but three teams, including Jordan and South Korea, later backed out. Joining Northern in the tournament were the Bayi Rockets of China, G. D. Wa Seng of Macau, Al Arabi of Qatar, Al Ahli of Bahrain, South China of Hong Kong, Kuang Hua of Chinese Taipei, PKN Selangor of Malaysia, Asia Electric of Singapore, Al Qadisiah of Kuwait, Bangkok Bank of Thailand, Colombo of Sri Lanka and Brunei Club of Brunei. Al Arabi’s imports were former University of Alabama star Rickey Brown and Robert (Rah Rah) Smith. PKN Selangor was coached by Bruce Wilson and Bayi was bannered by four 1983 ABC veterans, 7-4 Mu Tiezhu, MVP Guo Yonglin, Kuang Lubin and Ma Yaonan.

Northern took the crown with an 8-0 record, averaging 98.4 points and giving up 54.9 a game with an average winning margin of 43.5. Twice, Jacobs crushed China – 86-62 in the preliminaries and 82-56 in the final with Engelland leading the Northern scorers in both contests. Northern opened the tournament with a 126-25 massacre of Macau as seven players hit in double figures led by Moore’s 17. Engelland shot 26 against Qatar, 30 in the first Bayi game and 26 in the second. Tan had 16 in the win over Bahrain and Lim, 18 against Kuang Hua. The victory set the stage for the Philippines to play in the FIBA World Clubs Championships in Spain in 1985 and that’s the story in tomorrow’s column.

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