TWO top basketball officials from the South have vowed to oppose in Congress two bills seeking the naturalization of NBA players Javale McGee and Andray Blatche, who are being eyed to reinforce Gilas Pilipinas in the Fiba-World Cup later this year.
University of Cebu basketball team manager Baldomero Estenzo and Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. (Cesafi) commissioner Felix Tiukinhoy said they will send a petition to the House Committee opposing the two bills filed last week by Antipolo City representative Robbie Puno.
“They’re toying around with our citizenship. We know that this is a numbers game and chances are, we will lose. But we just want everybody to know that there are people in this country who oppose these bills,” Estenzo, one of the founders of Cesafi, told Spin.ph on Monday afternoon.
Estenzo, who is also the Dean of University of Cebu's College of Law, added: “Sports is all about following the rules. Why can’t we do that here? Why can’t we just follow the process? Why, will we be champions if we get these players?”
The UC official pointed out the 1954 Philippine team that competed in the Fiba-World Cup (then known as the World Basketball Championship) won the bronze medal behind a roster composed of Filipinos.
“Look at the 1954 team. We won the bronze medal with an all-Filipino team,” he said, referring to the squad bannered by the legendary Carlos `The Big Difference’ Loyzaga which beat Uruguay, 67-63, in the battle for third place.
The bronze medal finish remains until now the highest finish achieved by any Asian country in the quadrennial showpiece.
In backing Estenzo's view, Tiukinhoy noted the House bill shows how basketball leaders in the country are "blinded" by their desire for fame and glory.
“I agree with Estenzo on his move to oppose the naturalization bill for these two NBA players. I will join him in signing the petition to oppose the naturalization bill filed in Congress,” he said.
“Some of our basketball sports leaders do not value our (Filipino) citizenship anymore. It is now given away to anybody just for temporary reasons. They are blinded already just to attain fame and glory for themselves,” the longtime Cesafi commissioner said in a statement.
The move to tap the Denver Nuggets' McGee and Blatche of the Brooklyn Nets as naturalized players was announced by national coach Chot Reyes last week during his meeting with the PBA board of governors.
Such a petition could derail the plans of Gilas officials, who are in a race against time to have the naturalization of McGee and Blatche passed by the two houses of Congress before the World Cup set from August 30 to September 14.
Deadline for the submission of lineups is on July 30.