THERE is one Filipino-Nigerian player who, at 14, already stands 6-foot-7; there's another Fil-Aussie prospect who was already 6-foot-5 at the age of 12.
Thanks to the internet and social media, more and more overseas-based players with Filipino blood are being discovered around the world and identified as possible candidates for future national teams, no different from Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson and other Fil-foreign players now suiting up for Gilas Pilipinas.
Now the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) is looking to tap into this rich talent base.
SBP executive director Sonny Barrios said the basketball body is in the process of drafting a program that aims to reach out to these Fil-foreign players and integrate them into the national team program at a very young age, in the hope of tapping them for future Gilas teams.
"It's all part of the short-term program of the SBP," Barrios told Spin.ph, saying the template will be part of the rejigged master plan the basketball body in putting in place in the wake of the reorganization of the qualification process Fiba is putting in place after the Fiba Asia championship in Changsha, China.
Businessman Andrew Teh, who is team manager of the Batang Gilas youth squads, said it is important to reach out to the prospects early, not only to assure that they will become eligible to play for the national team but also to get their firm commitment to represent the Philippines in tournaments overseas.
"Of course, their eligibility and commitment is be important," said the Cebu-based businessman.
Eligibility is the No. 1 issue for Fil-foreigners because of the Fiba ruling that requires players to have acquired the passport of the country they want to represent before turning 16.
But if these Fil-foreign prospects can be integrated into the youth program of Batang Gilas, Teh said that obstacle will be easier to hurdle.
As it is, a lot of promising players have already been identified by fans through the social media even before the SBP program can get rolling. There is AJ Edu, a 6-7 Fil-Nigerian based in Wales who is a holder of a Philippine passport since age two. There, too, is Ethan Kirkness, a Fil-Australian from the Gold Coast who was measured at 6-5 at the age of 12 last year.
Teh said Kirkness and his parents had in fact touched base with Batang Gilas officials when the family recently went home to Manila for a vacation. No agreement was forged but Teh said the line of communication is at least open for more talks once the SBP program is put in place.
"We're still in the process of creating a program that will support potential Fil-foreigners for Batang Gilas," said Teh, adding they're looking at "a template on how we can train them while they're abroad and to bring them to the country maybe two months before an important tournament such as Fiba Asia."
In the case of Kirkness, Teh said no proposal was put forward yet 'because of the absence of a template."
Barrios and Teh recognized that talent identification has been made easy for the SBP because of social media while the publicity generated by Clarkson's bid to become eligible for Gilas for the 2015 Fiba Asia Championship has made Fil-foreigners aware of the Fiba rule on citizenships.
Aside from the passport requirement, Barrios said Fiba, as in the Clarkson case, also requires players to show proof of 'ties and links to the motherland' before being declared eligible.
"Hindi lang basta may passport ka, okay na," said Barrios. "You also need to show links to the country you want to represent, like kung nakapag-bisita ka na ba, or nakapaglaro ka na before, or if you speak a dialect."
But if these Fil-foreign prospects can play for the Philippines as early as in Under-16 tournaments, there will be no such problems, the two officials agreed.