ADD GREG Smith to the list of former NBA players who are willing to go under the process of naturalization for Gilas Pilipinas in the future.
After TNT KaTropa import Donte Greene, his Blackwater counterpart was a surprise participant in the national team’s practice on Thursday night at the Meralco gym.
And in a heartbeat, Smith would agree to become a naturalized Filipino.
“It’ll be a blessing to play with these guys,” the five-year NBA veteran said after practice. “These guys are great and I played against a couple of them and they’re all good. The coaching staff is great. This team is great. Obviously, I practiced with them to showcase my abilities. I’m absolutely blessed for this.”
Blackwater management, led by team owner Dioceldo Sy, offered Smith, who’s had stints with the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, and the Minnesota Timberwolves, as a candidate for naturalization to the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP).
A traditional, back-to-the-basket big man who can shoot from medium range, Smith believes he can fit the national team’s style of play judging from his first practice.
“It was good, very productive. I think I fit their system,” Smith, who’s averaging 27.7 points, 21.7 boards, 4.2 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.7 block in 44 minutes in his six games so far for the Elite in this PBA Commissioner’s Cup, said. “I think I’ll be a great fit.”
National coach Chot Reyes agreed, saying Smith can complement June Mar Fajardo’s game.
“We want to work out with a lot of people, a lot of players as possible, and our priority are the players who can play with June Mar, who can be on the floor together with June Mar,” Reyes said. “Obviously, we’re very interested also with Alex Stepheson, but we think that he will essentially be playing the same position as June Mar.”
“The thing with guys like Donte and Greg is their ability to play with June Mar,” he added.
“Of course, our door is always open and big props to Blackwater management, they really want to help the team in that manner,” Reyes continued. “We’ve always put out the word that our practice is open to players who are thinking about applying for naturalization.”
And Smith is just 26 years young.
“The thing we like about Greg is he’s very young,” Reyes said. “He’s still got a lot of upside, a lot of potential. But even at that young age, he’s already been in the NBA for five years. Because of that experience, he’s able to pick things up very quickly.
“It’s (knowledge of system) not yet to the level of the others, but we could already see what he’s capable of,” he added.