TIME may be running short but Perlas Pilipinas is hell-bent on tapping Kelly Hardeman as the team’s naturalized player for its coming campaign in the Southeast Asian Games.
No initial negotiations have taken place yet, although Ever Billena team owner Dioceldo Sy is confident Hardeman will be very interested donning the colors of the country where she was born and raised.
The 6-foot Hardeman was born in the Philippines in 1994 to American parents and studied elementary to high school at Faith Academy in Antipolo.
She left for the U.S to attend college at Azusa Pacific University, where she averaged 19.1 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks in the PacWest collegiate league.
The 22-year-old cagebelle had just finished her stint with Amager-Denmark in the EuroLeague, where she is part of the starting unit with averages of 14.4 points and 10.5 rebounds.
Hardeman will be coming over to the country on May 23 during the EuroLeague off-season, and Sy hopes to lay his cards on the table about plans of naturalizing her and playing for the national team – if not this year, maybe in other future competitions.
“The Hardemans used to be our neighbors in Antipolo, and Kelly’s younger brother Josh, was my son’s former teammate, classmate, and friend. So malaki talaga ang chance na ma-naturalize natin siya,” said Sy, whose company had been bankrolling the campaign of the women’s national team for three years now.
Perlas Pilipinas coach Pat Aquino said Hardeman will definitely be a big boost to the national team especially since she’s already familiar with the way Filipinos play the game.
“Ang maganda kasi nito she knows the Philippine brand of basketball since she was born and raised here,” he said of Hardeman, who could play the 3 or 4 position.
After her stint at Faith Academy, Aquino disclosed he was actually recruiting Hardeman to play for National University, which he also coached in the UAAP.
“But she opted to play and study in the U.S.” he added.
Given the close proximity of the SEA Games to be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this August, Sy hopes to have Hardeman’s naturalized papers to be fast-tracked, although doing it is easier said than done.
If not, the long-time patron of the women’s national team is looking to have Hardeman come on board next year in a bid to boost Perlas Pilipinas hopes of earning a berth in the Tokyo Olympics.