PERLAS Pilipinas hopes the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) will finally be able to fast-track the naturalization of Kelly Hardeman after the national team again came up short of a gold in the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The lack of time to process the papers in Congress of the 6-foot Hardeman, a Philippine-born American player, prevented her from suiting up for the women’s team in the 29th edition of the SEA Games.
Perlas was frustrated anew in its bid to win a first ever women’s basketball gold for the country after it bowed to Malaysia, 60-56, on Thursday at the MABA Stadium.
In light of the disappointing loss, Ever Bilena team owner Dioceldo Sy, whose company has been the long-time backer of the women’s national team, wants to sit down with SBP officials and get to know its plan regarding the case of Hardeman.
“I just wanted to know what course of action the SBP will take on Kelly’s naturalization. And then we’ll take it from there,” said Sy from the Malaysian capital where he joined Perlas Pilipinas.
The basketball executive, who also owns the Blackwater franchise in the PBA, came along with Hardeman in Malaysia as the duo watched at ringside and witnessed how the Filipina cagebelles battled back from a double-digit deficit against the host country only to fall short in the endgame.
The 23-year-old Hardeman, who studied grade and high school at Faith Academy in Antipolo, is currently working in the school’s athletic department.
She averaged 14.4 points and 10.5 rebounds with Amager-Denmark team in the Euro-League.
From what Sy learned, the SBP wanted Hardeman’s naturalization be filed at the same time with the other naturalized player prospects for the men’s team.
“Ganun ang alam kong balak nila. But as of the moment, they’re still on the lookout for another prospect,” said Sy, who earlier also offered Blackwater import and former NBA player Greg Smith as a candidate for naturalization.
Coach Patrick Aquino admitted Hardeman could have been a valuable addition had she made it to the team roster for the SEA Games.
“Sayang added shooter sana siya,” said the national mentor, whose team ended its campaign in the biennial meet with a 118-44 rout of Vietnam in the hopes of salvaging at least a bronze medal finish.
If SBP would quickly act on Hardeman’s naturalization, she could be immediately eligible to play for Perlas in next year’s Asian Games in Indonesia. If not, then the SEA Games in Manila in 2019 could mark her debut in the national team.
“SBP is pushing for us (to play in the Asian Games), and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) has already approved it. We’re just waiting for the formality,” said Aquino.