Gilas Pilipinas: Is it time to replace Andray Blatche?

Paul Lintag on May 04, 2017 12:53 PM
Gilas Pilipinas: Is it time to replace Andray Blatche?
Former national team head coach Yeng Guiao says it might be best for Gilas Pilipinas to start the search for Andray Blatche's replacement as early as now.

With issues surrounding the availability of Andray Blatche for Gilas Pilipinas, is it really time for the Philippines to scout its next naturalized player?

Former national team head coach Yeng Guiao says that yes, a new naturalized player should already be on the way for Gilas as early as now.

"Ang lifetime naman ng naturalized player is 3-5 years tingin ko, and si Blatche, three years na naglalaro, so ibig sabihin niyan kailangan na nagre-recruit na ng panibago because other countries are also constantly recruiting naturalized players," Guiao said Wednesday.

Guiao, who coached the Philippines to an 8th-place finish in the 2009 FIBA-Asia Championships in Tianjin, added that all factors point to Blatche entering his final stand with Gilas Pilipinas.

"As I said, 3-5 years ang lifetime niyan, eh baka dalawang taon na lang si Andray then on his last year, or maybe as early as now, yung papalit sa kanya dapat nandiyan na," the fiery NLEX coach said.

For comparison, Marcus Douthit, the first naturalized player under the Gilas program, got his Filipino citizenship on March 2011 and suited up for the 2011 Jones Cup.

With the former Providence star as its anchor, Rajko Toroman's SMART-Gilas Pilipinas then took fourth place in the 2011 FIBA-Asia Championships at Wuhan, China.

At 33 years old, Douthit then led the Philippines to a silver-medal finish in the 2013 Asian Championships in Manila, marking the country's return to world basketball for the first time in over three decades. He played his last major tournament for Gilas a year later in the 2014 Asian Games where the Philippines ended up with a disappointing 7th place.

Blatche, the current naturalized center for Gilas Pilipinas, got his Filipino citizenship on in June 2014 and made his debut for the Philippine national team two months later for the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

Gilas won its last game in the tournament, beating Senegal in overtime for the country's first victory at the worlds in 40 years. Blatche would later come back in the 2015 FIBA-Asia Championships,  resulting in another silver for the Philippines, and the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

The 2017 SEABA Championships later this month, which Blatche is part of the current final lineup, would mark the former Brooklyn Net's third year with the Gilas program. Blatche is currently 30 years old.

While the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) has expressed its desire to add a couple more naturalized players to the Gilas program, no one has been seriously considered as of late except for some current PBA imports playing in the 2017 Commissioner's Cup.

TNT reinforcement Donte Greene practiced with Gilas a couple of times as he worked his way back to game shape before joining the KaTropa's current campaign. He said he's willing to join the national team as a naturalized player.

Former Houston Rocket and current Blackwater import Greg Smith also ran some drills with the national team and also shares the same sentiments with Greene regarding his willingness to be a part of Gilas Pilipinas.

Even Alaska import Cory Jefferson said he's also game to join if he's asked to.

Ultimately, only one thing is certain in Gilas' search for its next naturalized player --- the process is going to take a long time.

And so the Philippines should start the hunt right about now.

"Isa pang matagal na process ay yung naturalization process by legislation, it might take a year or so, so kailangan umpisahan na rin ngayon," Guiao said.

"Pero ang unang step dyan, I think, is making the right decision of who will you naturalize," he added.



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