Gilas ready to naturalize Isaiah Austin
In a perfect world, Gilas Pilipinas wiould have a pool of naturalized players at its disposal ready for every tournament it joins.
Unfortunately for Gilas, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) vice chairman Robbie Puno said it’s not always the case.
“The more we naturalize, the more difficult it becomes because the argument that we are frequently confronted with is the argument that we have too many naturalized players. We will just naturalize for the sake of it,” Puno shared on Saturday during the Smart Gilas Pilipinas sendoff for the 2019 Fiba World Cup Asian qualifiers at Crowne Plaza Hotel in Pasig.
Currently, the Philippines has Andray Blatche and Christian Standhardinger as its naturalized players.
Puno, who authored the bills that naturalized Blatche and Standhardinger, bared that a bill for the possible naturalization of another big man in Isaiah Austin is already on the table.
However, he’s still waiting for the green light from SBP officials before proceeding with the process.
“We have a bill prepared [for Austin], but it has not been filed. It’s my understanding that we are waiting on the go-signal of two powers that be: both of the team and in Congress. The first step really is having a clear mandate for us to pursue the naturalization of Isaiah Austin and we do not have that yet,” he said.
Puno also said the SBP is taking a cautious approach with Austin’s situation.
“[The SBP] wants to observe and they want to see the other candidates. Because if and when we pull the trigger on this, it’s a very tedious and difficult process. What we don’t want to do is to file a bill and then pull it out like we did with Javale McGee and several other players. We don’t want to go through that.”
Austin made himself a candidate for naturalization after impressing in his stint for Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas in the 2017 Fiba Asia Champions Cup where he averaged 20.0 points, 13.0 rebounds, 3.1 blocks, and 2.4 assists.
He is currently seeing action for Yulon Luxgen Dinos in the Super Basketball League in Taiwan.
However, Puno said getting the approval is just the tip of the iceberg, with Austin’s application expected to face stiff deliberation from Congress.
“I recall that when I filed and appeared in a session in congress to naturalize Andray Blatche, even coach Yeng Guiao said that the naturalization component of our national team has to be a temporary program. We can’t naturalize indefinitely. There’s got to be a time when this is going to stop,” he said.
“I cannot present a bill saying that this is the next one, this the one this year, and we’re going to get another one next year. In other countries, the naturalization program may include people who a country wants to get because of exceptional merit and ability. There is no such program in the Philippines. I present the naturalization bills that we file along those lines, but we have to be very careful whenever we launch a naturalization program, it includes a lot of things. It’s a tedious and an expensive process.”
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