Marooned in Wuhan: Lassiter, Lutz not losing hopeBy June Navarro
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The two Fil-Ams remain hopeful that the international basketball federation will eventually allow them to shore up the Smart Gilas national team’s bid in the London Olympics next year.
Lutz and Lassiter, coach Rajko Toroman’s reliable wing defenders, were barred from playing in the after Fiba Asia officials questioned their eligibility.
They were considered naturalized players despite the fact that both have Filipino mothers, which make them natural-born Filipino citizens under the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
The only beef against Lutz and Lassiter was they grew up in the United States without officially declaring that they wanted to be Filipinos before reaching the age of 16.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me and Marcio,” said the 6-foot-4 Lutz, who played for US NCAA Division I Marshall University. “We put a lot of hard work on this and it’s so frustrating.”
Lutz and Lassiter, who will jump into the PBA after the Asian championship, sat out the entire first round where their teammates won twice in between a loss to host China.
“It’s really frustrating for us watching the games, especially against China,” said Lutz. “We’re losing and we couldn’t do anything.”
The two players have been with the Nationals for almost three years now.
“There are people in the games not understanding why we’re not playing. But it’s not in our hands, we cannot do much about it,” added Lutz.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas officials have been working round-the-clock to get the clearance from the Fiba Central Board in Geneva, Switzerland.
“We are in constant touch with Fiba,” said SBP president Manny V. Pangilinan during a dinner he hosted for the team Saturday night. “All the cases have been elevated. In a way, we cannot betray confidence here.”
“All I can say is we’re doing our best getting in touch with them, urging them to make a decision hopefully in time for our game against Jordan,” he added.
Sitting on the bench for what seemed like eternity doesn’t diminish the resolve of Lutz and Lassiter one bit.
“I have no control over it but I hope that things can be resolved,” said the 23-year-old Lassiter, a California State-Fullerton alumnus. “I can’t wait to get on the floor. You got to give all you have.”
“It’s frustrating to see your teammates work so hard and I can’t be out there on the court. But I promise when I get there, it will be a much different story and hopefully we could contend and win a medal.”