MANILA, Philippines -- The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) is still studying the candidates for naturalization for the country's men's basketball program.
This, despite attempts to naturalize beloved Barangay Ginebra import Justin Brownlee and Ateneo de Manila University's prolific student-athlete Ange Kouame of Ivory Coast, among others.
"Sa pagkakaalam ko, wala pa tayong napa-file na bills on naturalization right now," SBP director of operations Butch Antonio said on Tuesday during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum.
"We're still assessing kung sino dapat talaga ang dapat nating maging candidates for naturalization," he explained.
SBP president Al Panlilio said in January that Gilas Pilipinas is ready to move on from Andray Blatche, who was the team's naturalized player in the 2014 and 2019 editions of the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Instead, there are plans to form a pool of naturalized players, so that the team's coaching staff can have a choice. It also gives the national team an alternative should a player get injured.
In January, Antipolo Representative Robbie Puno urged the House of Representatives to naturalize Kouame, who has anchored the Blue Eagles' run to the UAAP title in 2018 and 2019. San Miguel import Chris McCullough has also expressed his desire to play for the Philippines.
Antonio said the candidates for naturalization will depend on the Gilas Pilipinas coaching staff.
"It's the coaching staff that will determine what kind of talent we will be needing," he said. "Depende pa 'yan… hindi lang naman si Justin Brownlee ang tinitingnan ng ating SBP."
The SBP has yet to name a long-term coach for Gilas Pilipinas. TNT active consultant Mark Dickel remains the interim head coach, after calling the shots for the team in the first window of the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers last February.
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