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Kouame naturalization won't go to waste even with Clarkson, says SBP

Luisa Morales - Philstar.com
Kouame naturalization won't go to waste even with Clarkson, says SBP
Jordan Clarkson (L) and Ange Kouame
FIBA / AFP

MANILA, Philippines — The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) said that Ateneo's Ange Kouame's naturalization for Gilas Pilipinas will not go misspent despite the federation's push for having Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson around as the Nationals' naturalized player.

Per SBP spokesperson Sonny Barrios, Clarkson will not be around all the time for Gilas in every competition. Owing to his schedule with the NBA, Kouame will be able to plug himself in more often than not.

"Well, if we decide on Jordan, yes. The answer is yes. And Ange is aware of that," Barrios said of ruling out Kouame for the Gilas 2023 FIBA World Cup roster.

"But, you know, it doesn't mean Ange's naturalization will go to waste. Because remember, Clarkson will not be around for window 5, will not be around for window 6, will not be around for the Southeast Asian Games. So marami pa tayong pwedeng pag-gamitan kay Ange," he added.

Clarkson is pegged to play for Gilas in the upcoming window of the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers at the end of this month.

In Tuesday's online Philippine Sportswriters Association forum, the SBP bared that FIBA had already decided with finality that Clarkson can only play for the Philippines as a naturalized player, despite his Filipino heritage.

This was due to the fact that Clarkson was not able to secure his Philippine passport in time when he was 16 years old, which is FIBA's policy.

According to Barrios, the SBP has made peace with FIBA's decision to classify Clarkson as a naturalized player despite their efforts to push for him playing as a local.

"It's just that at the level of talks that we've had, kumbaga pag sinabing pasensiya na, hindi pwede, then we accept it. I hope it would not appear like we abandoned it," Barrios said, speaking of the push by the SBP to categorize him as a local.

"Kasi kung sa usapang matino, 'pag nasabing hindi pwede, paulit-ulit ka pa, ang ayaw natin, masagot tayo ng, 'What part of no did you not understand?' Mahirap naman 'yun kung lalabas na mahirap tayong gumets. Gets na natin, tanggap na natin," he continued.

It can be recalled that in 2018, Clarkson represented the Philippines in the Asian Games. The Asian Games is not a FIBA-sanctioned event and thus did not need to meet the federation's rules on eligibility.

In the initial pool for the fourth window of qualifiers, where the Philippines faces Lebanon and Saudi Arabia on August 25 and 29, respectively, Clarkson joins the likes of Thirdy and Kiefer Ravena, Bobby Ray Parks, Francis Lopez, Carl Tamayo, Kevin Quiambao and Dwight Ramos.

Per the SBP, PBA players included in the pool will be announced after the semifinals of the ongoing PBA Philippine Cup.

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