Marcio Lassiter, Chris Lutz need Fiba OK

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WUHAN, China—The Smart Gilas Pilipinas five started its campaign in the Fiba Asia Championship Thursday minus Filipino-Americans Marcio Lassiter and Chris Lutz.

Coach Chot Reyes of Talk ‘N Text, who is here as one of the assistant coaches, said in his Twitter account Thursday that the two won’t play against United Arab Emirates without a clearance from the Fiba.

“We will just play and win this with 10 men,” posted Reyes.

The citizenship of Lassiter and Lutz was brought up during the team managers’ meeting Wednesday night where the final rosters of 12 players for each team were submitted.

Smart Gilas operations chief Butch Anto nio explained that Fiba internal regulations on naturalized players don’t apply on Lassiter and Lutz since they are considered Filipino-born citizens based on the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

But the Fiba Asia commission elevated the issue to the Fiba Central Board, in Swietzerland for a final decision.

“Fiba Commissioner just told me now that Lutz & Lassie are ineligible. Only an advise from Fiba in Switzerland can make them play now,” Reyes also posted.

Meanwhile, the nationals finally get a chance to size up host and defending champion China Friday.

“China is the big favorite to win (the tournament) and there’s a reason why it hosted this event,” said Philippine five coach Rajko Toroman.

The Chinese, who were beaten in their turf by back-to-back champion Iran in Tianjin 2009, are fresh from a 79-66 conquest of Iceland in a tuneup before coming in.

They are expected to fully exploit their size and homecourt edge to rule the tournament and seize the lone continental spot for next year’s London Olympics.

They have practically brought the same 2009 roster—led by former Dallas Maverick Wang Zhizhi and Yi Jianlian of the Washington Wizards, small forward Zhu Fangyu and guards Liu Wei and Sun Yue—which toppled South Korea in the finals of the 2010 Guangzhou Asiad.

“There’s a tremendous amount of pressure for them to deliver. Maybe it’s good that we’re playing them early,” said Toroman.

The Serbian mentor pointed out that stingy defense down low and explosive outside shooting would do the trick for the Nationals, whose frontline of Marcus Douthit, Kelly Williams, Ranidel De Ocampo and Japeth Aguilar could keep other teams on their toes.

“It will really depend on how we play defense against their big guys. If we can match up and our outside shooters deliver, we have a chance to win,” said Toroman.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7N3DPI32YEWZ6XVENYMHO2OANE Kevin Angeles

    napaka irresponsable naman ng management ng smart gilas. hindi ba ang main goal ng team ay maqualify sa olympics? ito na yun eh, fiba asia. tapos masasayang lang preparation ng team dahil sa technicalities. sasali tayo sa mga tournaments, eh ultimong rules hindi talaga natin ganap na nauunawaan. smh

  • Roy Concepcion

    I would say somebody did not do his job well.. MVP should fire the responsible people on not seeing this.. No excuse!!!

  • Anonymous

    Whaaat? After 2 years of the Gilas program, for the citizenship issue to come up now? What is this? Someone did not do their job! After all this time, with all the injuries, shuffling of players and now this, all this preparation goes down the drain. How could our SBP and Gilas officials overlook this? But Fiba is not blameless. Our team has been playing with these 2 in multiple tournaments as Filipinos, and this issue never came up before. What the heck is going on?!?

  • Anonymous

    Who brought up Lassiter’s and Lutz’ citizrnship at the last minute? They have been on the team for 2 years already. Why only now are they prevented from playing. This is treachery against the Philippines of the highest order.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_322JRK2US5EWNMHANWQ73QAHDI JoshAmiel

      lebanon….

  • Anonymous

    Who questioned Lassiter’s and Lutz’ citizenship at the last minute? They have been on the team for 2 years now. Why only now? This is treachery of the highest order.

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