THE Samahang Basktebol ng Pilipinas (SBP) is leaving no stone unturned in preparing for the still-distant, yet already much-anticipated Philippine hosting of the Fiba World Cup in 2023.
While urging Gilas coach Chot Reyes to form the 2023 squad as early as possible, SBP management is just waiting for the go-signal from the coaching staff on the best possible candidate as the national team’s next naturalized player.
“Right now, we’re ready to spearhead that process. We’ve spoken with a couple of congressmen who will author the bill,” SBP vice chairman Robbie Puno said on Thursday during an event celebrating the country winning the co-hosting right.
“What we’re waiting for is the imprimatur as to who we will really make the effort to naturalize, because when you start that process, it becomes really difficult,” he added.
When he was still in Congress as Antipolo representative, Puno sponsored the bill in the Lower House that paved the way for the naturalization of Andray Blatche.
Gilas has recently looked at 24-year-old Isaiah Thomas as a possible naturalization candidate, with the 7-foot-1 beanpole flashing his rim-protecting skill and outside shooting in the Fiba Asia Champions Cup where he averaged 20 points, 13 boards, 3.1 blocks, and 2.4 assists in 32.6 minutes in seven games.
But Puno insisted that tapping the services of Austin is not yet final.
“At this point in time, we do not have any particular player yet,” Puno said. “My understanding is we’re still looking for the best possible candidate.”
“If our target is 2023, there would be probably enough time for us to make sure we have the right players in terms of his basketball skills, but also his age as well as his attitude,” he added.
SBP president Al Panlilio admitted the 31-year-old Blatche’s stint as Gilas’ naturalized player is nearing its end.
“Andray Blatche will still be able to play next year, but for sure, he can’t compete in 2023 anymore,” Panlilio said. “We should have two players (in the pool), somebody who is young and can develop with the team.”