AIR21 coach Franz Pumaren is convinced his team's import, Michael Dunigan, is the perfect choice to be the next naturalized player for the Gilas Pilipinas national team program.
“I maybe biased because Mike (Dunigan) is my player, pero sa tingin ko he can really be a good addition (to Gilas Pilipinas)," Pumaren told Spin.ph on Friday. "He’s a good choice for our next naturalized player.”
“Aside from scoring and rebounding, Mike can give (the national team) other things. May energy siya na infectious sa teammates niya, as you can see in all of our games,” added the former PBA star guard.
Pumaren, in fact, is so convinced that Dunigan will be a perfect fit for Gilas that he called Gilas coach Chot Reyes before the start of the Commissioner's Cup to vouch for his import.
“Tinawagan ko si Chot. Sabi ko sa kanya, ‘Tignan mo itong import ko, mukhang pwede sa iyo’," Pumaren said, recalling their conversation. "And sabi niya (Reyes), titignan nga raw niya.”
Gilas currently has one naturalized player in Marcus Douthit, who incidentally played for Pumaren during last year's Commissioner's Cup.
Douthit is turning 33 next month and previous efforts to sign JaVale McGee as a second naturalized player for Gilas was dropped last year due to the large amount needed for the insurance cover of his multi-million contract with the Denver Nuggets.
On Thursday, the 23-year-old Dunigan, who is averaging 26.33 points, 16.44 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, and 2.1 assists a game for the Express, told Spin.ph he is open to the idea of joining Gilas as a naturalized player.
“Maganda ang ugali nito. Magaling makisama at willing talaga siya to learn,” said Pumaren. “He knows that he is lacking in experience kaya he never complains when you give him new tasks."
The former University of Oregon star is so far one of the best performing imports in the league halfway through the elimination phase of the mid-season tournament.
“Not to take anything away from my locals pero compare mo naman yung lineup ko sa lineup ng iba, pero bakit kami nanalo?” said Pumaren. “Malaking bagay si Mike dun, nag-a-attract siya ng double team, which creates situation for us."