NEW Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) vice chairman Robbie Puno is seeking to have talks with Fiba in the hope of softening the stance of the International Basketball Federation on its eligibility rules that have hindered the formation of the country's national team.
The former Antipolo First District representative is hoping for Fiba to allow the Philippines and other countries to tap more than one naturalized player for international competitions, and relax the rule that requires overseas-based standouts to secure passports they hope to represent by age 16.
“You have to be able to be in discussions with Fiba about relaxing the eligibility rules,” Puno said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to get one or more naturalized players.”
The former congressman, the man credited for the naturalization of Marcus Douthit and Andray Blatche, cited that when the Philippines made it back to the Fiba World Cup in 2014, he did a privilege speech and urged Congress to help him naturalize a pool of players.
“I think it should be a pool,” Puno said. “Naturalization is one of the three ways that you can naturalize a person into a Philippine citizen and it is only in Congress where we have the option to naturalize on the basis of the Philippines’ need.”
“It is because of that need that we should be able to naturalize,” he added. “We should be able to get several.”
Puno is aiming from at least one more naturalized player to be allowed to as many as four standouts.
“Keep them in a pool of players that can be used for the national team depending on the tournament we’re participating,” Puno said. “Sometimes, we need big people. Sometimes we need quick people. Sometimes we need shooters and sometimes we need post-up players.”
Puno also expressed the possibility of tapping a naturalized player for the women’s team, which he had already done in the past when he filed a bill naturalizing a Chinese girl for the national team.
Puno recounted they had to abandon the plan at the time as they felt it was going to go down to a choice between Marcus Douthit and the Chinese girl on who the Congress will allow to be naturalized.
“I would be open to it again,” said Puno, who’s still party chairman for the National Unity Party. “I would be able to work with people in Congress. I would be able to push that as an influencer.”