SAN Miguel Beer gunner Marcio Lassiter joined the rest of the players in Gilas Pilipinas' pool in their first practice on Monday night but deep inside, he was unsure what the future holds for him in the Fiba World Cup.
You see, Lassiter and now San Miguel teammate Chris Lutz encountered problems the last time they suited up for Gilas in a Fiba-sanctioned international tournament owing to a technicality.
The two Fil-American wingmen were barred from playing Gilas' first two games in the 2011 Fiba Asia championships in Wuhan, China owing to Fiba internal regulation Article 3-21a that "prohibits the fielding of players with foreign roots who shall not acquire citizenship (passport) before reaching the age of 16."
However, the mess was soon sorted out and he was able to play in the match against Jordan.
“Yeah, I did have problems (playing in the 2011 Fiba Asia), I wasn’t sure what it was, I did have problems. But I hope it is okay now. I hope so,” said Lassiter on Monday night.
“I hope it is okay now. I hope it won’t hinder my stint with the national team again. I am honored to be part of the national pool and thankful to the coaches for allowing me to be part of this team.”
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director Sonny Barrios, though, was quick to ease Lassiter's fears.
The former PBA commissioner assured that any player who has already played for the Philippines in a Fiba-sanctioned tournament is already eligible to don the national colors, as in the case of Gabe Norwood, Asi Taulava and Kelly Williams.
“Eligible si Marcio. Naglaro na siya sa Wuhan, napa-approve na namin 'yun. Hininto sandali yung participation nila, pero nung bumaba na yung ruling ng Fiba Asia pinalaro na,” said Barrios.
Barrios likewise denied fears that Lutz and Lassiter's participation in the 2011 Fiba Asia championship is no guarantee of eligibility in future Fiba-sanctioned tournaments like the World Cup and Asian Games.
“No such banana, basta’t nakalaro na okay na. Kasi kaya siya nakalaro, cleared siya. I guarantee you, kasi kausap ko mismo mga taga Fiba sa Geneva na allowed sila lumaro, and kino-confirm ko in the form of a written communication from FIba,” added the mild-mannered basketball official.
“Huwag kayong mabahala. That’s a non-issue anymore. Pakisabi kay Marcio, bibigyan ko pa siya ng 1,000 dollars kung di siya makakalaro, kapalit piso lang. Ganun ako kakumpiyansa,” added Barrios.
The same ruling may apply to Ginebra's Greg Slaughter, who, like Lassiter, failed to gain his Filipino citizenship before the age of 16 yet has already suited up for the Gilas team of Rajko Toroman in the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou.
But when asked if Lassiter has already been given the green light by his mother team in the PBA to play for Gilas, Barrios was not as confident.
“Hindi ko na sakop 'yun,” was his short response.
A source told Spin.ph that Reyes named an additional four players to the pool while banking on an earlier promise by the PBA board that the national coach can have new players to his pool anytime he needed them.
“Malinaw ang basa ko dun, ‘The coach can name anybody, any PBA player to his pool.' Sa intindi namin, walang kundisyunes yun,” said the Gilas source who asked not to be named.
“This time, sa World Cup, he (Reyes) can name anybody to his pool. The 13 were there for the Fiba Asia and he only added four thinking that he was free to name anybody. In fact he only named four, not five or six,” added the source.
Aside from Lassiter, the second player to be tapped from San Miguel after June Mar Fajardo, Reyes has also tapped a third Ginebra player in Slaughter to add to LA Tenorio and Japeth Aguilar.
So will Lassiter, and Slaughter be able to suit up for the Gilas team? It’s a question only San Miguel officials can answer.