THERE was this one heartwarming story ran by NBA.com and the Los Angeles Lakers official website about Jordan Clarkson, the Filipino-American player who has impressed in his rookie season with the popular NBA team.
In the article entitled, 'Clarkson Proud to represent the Philippines' which has since been picked up by other local websites, the Lakers rookie talked about how grateful he was for the support from fans in the basketball-crazy nation.
Clarkson, whose mother, Annette Davis, is a Filipino, said he hopes to visit the Philippines for the first time soon and expressed interest in playing for the national team, more popularly known as Gilas Pilipinas.
The Laker rookie, of course, is aware of the rule that mandates players with dual citizenships to acquire a passport of the country they want to represent in Fiba-sanctioned tournaments before they turn 16 years old.
Clarkson, a 22-year-old who was raised in San Antonio and played college ball at Missouri, has not done that, but said he hopes to gain an 'exemption' to be able to play for the Philippines in international competitions.
Intrigued, we turned to the country's governing body for basketball, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) and asked the question: Is there a chance Clarkson can gain an exemption from the Fiba rule and play for Gilas?
SBP executive director Sonny Barrios addressed the issue and you won't like his answer.
"Almost nil," he said.
Barrios, also a former PBA commissioner, explained that the rule was put in place in 2011 by the Fiba Central Committee, mainly to discourage some countries from tapping 'mercenaries' for their teams.
In fact, Barrios pointed out that two Fil-Ams who used to be part of Gilas during Rajko Toroman's time in charge, Chris Lutz and Marcio Lassiter, were the last players to be exempted from the rule when they were allowed to play in the 2011 Fiba-Asia championships in Wuhan, China.
"But after that, Fiba made it clear to us na last na last na 'yon," said Barrios. "That's a hard and fast rule, and I don't think an exemption is possible."
However, there is still a chance that Clarkson can play for Gilas in the future, Barrios said. Not as a Filipino but as a 'naturalized player.'
Barrios said he has in fact drafted a letter to Fiba to inquire about the possibility of tapping players like Clarkson who failed to secure passports before they turned 16, being tapped as naturalized players.
Since these players are already Filipinos, Barrios said tapping them through the naturalized player exemption will do away with the long process of naturalization that players like Marcus Douthit and Andray Blatche had to go through.
Barrios said he's hoping for a favorable response from Fiba.