GILAS Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes is hoping that the national team can finally find the best candidate that’s worthy to undergo naturalization considering the hurdles the foreign player has to go through before becoming a Filipino citizen.
The national team is trying out its newest prospect in Isaiah Austin, who is set to participate in the team’s first official practice for the Fiba Asia Champions Cup on Wednesday night at the Meralco gym.
While conducting tryouts to aspirants, including PBA import Greg Smith, is one thing, picking out the best candidate is another.
“A lot of people, the so-called ‘experts’ are saying, ‘let’s get this guy,’ ‘why don’t we get a pool of three or four guys?’” Reyes said. “People have to understand our naturalization – we don’t have a ‘piso-piso’ naturalization process. We’re not like other countries when you say somebody comes in and tomorrow he’ll be naturalized.”
Former Antipolo Rep. and now Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas vice chairman Robbie Puno authored the bill of Andray Blatche’s naturalization, the process of which started in the lower house of Congress, before getting approved in the Senate after three readings.
“You have to go to Congress, and Congress doesn’t want to naturalize players every year or every two years,” Reyes said. “That’s why when we send somebody up for naturalization, kailangan pinag-isipan ng husto: somebody who’s young, somebody who can stay for over a period of years, somebody who can grow with the program.”
The 7-foot-1 Austin won’t turn 24 for another month.
Reyes cited the case of San Miguel Beer’s Commissioner’s Cup import, Charles Rhodes, who has shown flashes of perimeter shooting at 6’8”, but he’s already 32.
“I tweeted my sincere appreciation for Charles Rhodes for volunteering,” Reyes said. “We really like his game. Unfortunately, it’s not only up to us. He will have a hard time passing in Congress.”
“Some people are saying, ‘why don’t we use Charles Rhodes for one or two years while we’re naturalizing another guy?’ It’s not possible, because it just will not pass through Congress,” he added.
“As it is now, we’re not even sure if Isaiah will be naturalized this year or next year, because Congress will tell us Andray Blatche is still there, ‘di ba?” he continued. “Hindi naman piso-piso ang naturalization sa Pilipinas; it’s serious business, so I just want everyone to understand why it is not as simple. It’s a very difficult process.”