ALTHOUGH Gilas Pilipinas already has a solid 14-man pool for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, the lineup no doubt still has a few holes due to the absence of injured Greg Slaughter, Paul Lee, and probably Marcio Lassiter.
With the national team once again struck by the injury bug, one can’t help but wonder what could’ve been if there was no Fiba rule requiring players who hold dual citizenship to have secured a passport from the country they plan to represent before turning 16.
National coach Tab Baldwin would surely have no shortage of players at his disposal.
Baldwin earlier urged Fiba to “wake up” and strike down the rule which he said deprives the fans the opportunity to see the best players in the world playing in the international stage.
If the world governing body heeds the call, here are some of the notable Fil-foreign players in and out of the country who could become eligible for consideration to play for the national team outright in Fiba-sanctioned events:
The explosive Fil-Am guard is considered one of the best players ineligible to play for the national team. The former PBA Rookie of the Year has proven to be a big-time scorer, teaming up with Terrence Romeo in bringing GlobalPort to new heights.
The Filipino-Tongan big man was in the Gilas pool only as a back-up naturalized player, but Baldwin surely didn’t name the Tropang TNT rookie as Andray Blatche’s emergency replacement for no reason. The national team can certainly use the muscular 6-foot-7 slotman’s size and athleticism.
The Fil-Am energizer bunny has already represented the country in the international scene in the 2011 Southeast Asian Games, winning the gold. But the 6-foot-4 Meralco forward would certainly want to do it again in a Fiba-sanctioned event this time, providing his rebounding (he’s averaging a career-high 8.8 boards so far in the middle of his fourth PBA season) and hustle to the national side.
The Fil-Italian combo guard was a prospect for the Gilas 1.0 side under coach Rajko Toroman, but ultimately didn’t make the team. The 6-foot-1 Alaska guard, who played for NCAA Division II side Seattle Pacific in college, is breaking the “sophomore jinx” in his second year for the Aces, averaging 9 points, 3.4 boards, 2.6 assists, and one steal in 20.9 minutes so far in two conferences.
The Fil-Am playmaker bared he was among those Baldwin approached to join the current pool, only for the San Miguel Beer star to be forced to beg off from the invitation as he didn’t have his Philippine passport by age 16. The 2015 Philippine Cup Finals MVP is a pure point guard who could’ve given Gilas stability and defense in the backcourt.
The Fil-Am standout is a pure point guard who played NCAA Division I ball at Long Island University Brooklyn, leading the tournament in assists in his last two years in college as he ended up with the fourth-highest assists total in NCAA history with 1,009 dishes.
The six-foot playmaker took his talent to Southeast Asia, playing for Westports Malaysia in the Asean Basketball League, averaging a double-double in point and assists in leading the Dragons to this year’s title.
The 24-year-old cager is now eyeing another Europe stint, before playing in the PBA.
The 26-year-old Fil-German is a legitimate big man with experience in NCAA Division I ball, having played for Nebraska and Hawaii.
The 6-foot-7 power forward was supposedly part of the 2014 Asian Games lineup of coach Chot Reyes, but was among those deemed ineligible after a Olympic Council of Asia changed one of its rules.
Undrafted in the 2014 NBA Draft, Standhardinger now plays for second-tier German side Rasta Vechta and is a future top PBA draft prospect.
The Fil-Am standout could’ve been the prototype backcourt player for Gilas: a 6-foot-4 cager who can play either guard spots.
Also eyed to be part of Reyes’ lineup for the Asian Games, Holt played NCAA Division 1 school at Saint Mary’s College, where he averaged 15.2 points, 3.9 assists, and 3.8 boards in his junior year.
Like Stanhardinger, he went undrafted in 2014 NBA Draft, but managed to make Cleveland’s preseason squad, before settling for the Cavaliers’ D-League affiliate Canton Charge the rest of the season.
The 24-year-old cager had a stint in the National Basketball League in Australia, before playing in the Spanish League for Andorra this season.
This one’s a stretch. The 11-year NBA veteran claimed he was one-eighth Filipino in a report by Dime Magazine’s website, although his mother, Renee Busch, in an interview with Star columnist Quinito Henson, was uncertain of her son’s lineage.
If he does have Filipino blood, the 32-year-old Robinson, who now plays in the Israeli League, could definitely give Gilas’ backcourt a major boost with his talent and athleticism, having been the first and only three-time winner of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
Although the SBP said last year that the Los Angeles Lakers guard has been a Philippine passport holder since he was 12, SBP executive director Sonny Barrios said the rising NBA star’s eligibility to play for Gilas still needs to go through the process before it is approved by Fiba.
The 6-foot-5 combo guard has always signified his desire to play for his mother’s homeland, but only time will tell if that can happen.