Thailand not too keen at the moment of tapping naturalized player for SEA Games, says coach
Thailand coach Tim Lewis wants to develop Thai players first before even considering to tap a naturalized player. Jerome Ascano

THAILAND is not in a hurry to include a naturalized player in its lineup even for the coming Southeast Asian Games.

British coach Tim Lewis disclosed the team would rather develop Thai players or those who had experience playing overseas but have deep Thai roots.

“I think it’s important for us in Thailand to develop talent,” he said. “I think right now, we need as many Thai players having experience overseas playing in this kind of competition.”

The team have several Thai-American players as part of its pool at the moment, most prominent of which are Tyler Lamb and Moses Morgan. The two are eligible to play as locals provided they have secured their Thai passports just before they turned 16-years-old as per FIBA ruling.

[See Thailand makes it back-to-back wins with romp over Vietnam]

The 26-year-old Lamb, who suited up for Long Beach State, disclosed that he already has a Thai passport, but is uncertain of his status with the national team.

Meanwhile, Morgan, who played college ball at CS Fullerton, already played for Thailand in a tournament in Hong Kong last year.

Lewis said Morgan, just like Lamb, was expecting a baby this summer, which explained why the two failed to come over and be included as part of the country’s official roster for the Southeast Asia Basketball Association (Seaba) Championship.

 “We love to have those guys involved. At least we want one of them. It’s just not possible at this time around,” said Thai mentor.

Only the Philippines has entered a naturalized player in Andray Blatche for the Seaba tournament. Indonesia also has one in its official lineup in Jamarr Johnson, but has yet been cleared to play by FIBA-Asia after two days of competition.

For their part, Lewis said the Thais are not just about to tap a naturalize player just for the sake of having one.

“I don’t think you need overrun imports,” he stressed. “I think when we get to the point where some of the Thai players are holding their own, that may be the time to have whether we can (have) a naturalized (player).”

Besides, the naturalization process in Thailand is not easy as 1-2-3, according to Lewis.

“It’s hard. Thailand has specific rules and regulations. It’s not easy to say, hey we want this guy naturalized,” Lewis added.

“There’s few more hurdles (there) I think, before we jump to it.”

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[See Thailand coach explains why Lamb, Morgan failed to make Seaba trip]

Nonetheless, Lewis is satisfied with the way the Thais are playing sans a naturalized player, and even in the absence of either Morgan or Lamb. They notched their second straight win in the 2019 FIBA World Cup qualifier with an emphatic 76-51 win over Vietnam on Saturday for a share of the early lead.

“We’ve seen improvement over the last year, but we still have a long way to go, though,” he said

“I wish we could find talent, size. But the biggest thing for us is about building a culture around basketball like you have here in the Philippines,” said Lewis. “I’ve been pleased with what happened, the progress we have made on the floor, and we’re slowly catching up.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos