THE Philippine national team's loss may be Puerto Rico's gain as far as Sol Mercado is concerned.
Declared ineligible to play for Smart Gilas 2.0 due to Fiba Asia's new rules, Mercado said he has been receiving feelers to play in Puerto Rico's league and, possibly, its national team.
“I am half Puerto Rican, so there’s no problem with that,” the Meralco Bolts star, a five-year PBA veteran whose mother, Rosalie Rayos, is from Pampanga, said in confirming the offers.
Mercado said five Puerto Rican agents have been trying to get in touch with him, and he has been told of one offer which he described as "financially competitive."
The high-scoring guard was part of the original Smart Gilas 2.0 lineup, playing a key role when Chot Reyes' team won the country's first Jones Cup title in 14 years in Taipei.
Mercado, however, was replaced by Jared Dillinger in the lineup for the Fiba Asia Cup in Tokyo after he was ruled ineligible under Fiba Asia rules that require overseas-born players to have chosen the citizenship of the country they represent internationally before the age of 16.
Mercado twice donned the country's colors but never in a Fiba-sanctioned event, making him eligible to play for Puerto Rico. Fiba rules prohibit players from suiting up for more than one national team.
“I was injured and I didn’t play during the Fiba Asia (Cup). The Jones Cup is not a Fiba event. So, there won’t be any legal (problems),” said Mercado.
Mercado, an American citizen, doesn't foresee any problem with Puerto Rico since he has already suited up for its youth teams when he was around 12 to 13 years old.
Puero Rico is also a US protectorate.
The 28-year-old said he was surprised by the offers, but believes a player who has previously played in the PBA as an import may have tipped off Puerto Rican agents about him.
“Most of the players coming in, also play in Puerto Rico, so they might have talked about me or brought some videos," he said. “I have a friend, who has connections in Puerto Rico, that’s been contacted by scouts.”
Although he sounded interested, Mercado said he has not talked directly with the agents since he is still bound by a contract with Meralco that runs until 2014.
“I like the offer, I heard it’s more financially competitive, but I just can’t directly talk to them because I honor my contract with Meralco,” said Mercado.
Meanwhile, Mercado’s agent Charlie Dy said they will wait for a formal offer.
“We’re ready to talk to them,” said Dy. “If the contract is very enticing ... then we can sit down.”
Asked about the Meralco contract, Dy said: “Buyout (of the contract) is always an option."