FORMER national coach Yeng Guiao believes it’s indeed high time for Gilas Pilipinas to look for a new naturalized player in place of Andray Blatche in the future.
Guiao, who didn’t have the luxury of having a naturalized player when he steered the national team to an eighth-place finish in the 2009 Fiba Asia Championship, feels Blatche, who is turning 31 in August, is nearing the end of his prime.
“Ang lifetime naman ng naturalized player is three to five years tingin ko,” Guiao said on Wednesday. “And si Blatche, three years na naglalaro, so ibig sabihin niyan kailangan na nagre-recruit ng panibago because the other countries are also constantly recruiting naturalized players. Kailangan nasasabayan mo rin sila.”
“Baka dalawang taon na lang si Andray then on his last year – or maybe as early as now, yung papalit sa kanya dapat nandyan na,” the current NLEX coach added.
While the naturalization process takes long, choosing who to naturalize is the trickiest part, said Guiao, who saw one of the Gilas naturalized prospects on Wednesday in Blackwater import Greg Smith.
Smith flirted with a triple-double in leading his team to a 104-98 win over NLEX.
“Matagal na process ay yung naturalization process by legislation, it might take a year or so, so kailangan umpisahan na rin ngayon,” Guiao, a former congressman representing the first district of Pampanga, said. “Pero ang unang step dyan, I think, is making the right decision of who will you naturalize.”
As far as the local players in the Gilas’ 12-man lineup for Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) Championship, Guiao has he has “full trust” in coach Chot Reyes.
“I don’t think any coach could have done better in making their choices,” Guiao said. “I guess the next step now is just for him to jell the team and for the new players, yung mga bago kasi dyan, to get a feel of international play, which is totally different.”
“Kailangan lang talaga ma-experience nila maglaro sa international game,” he added. “I know he also understands that, wala na akong madadagdag sa mga alam na niya. Mas alam niya kaysa sa akin. He knows the international game better than I do.”