A different approach
With the clamor for Jordan Clarkson to play as a Filipino for Gilas Pilipinas in the World Cup later this year as loud as it could get from this cage-crazy nation, the country’s top basketball patron on Thursday said that the best approach at this time would be “a quiet one.”
Telecommunications chief Manny V. Pangilinan, a member of the powerful central board of the international cage body (Fiba), knows exactly how the ruling committee behaves and wants the appeal for Clarkson to follow a more toned-down process.
“Certainly, we would do our best to persuade them (Fiba, to allow Clarkson to play),” Pangilinan said. “Probably, the best approach would be a quiet one rather than create some noise.”
It is a tack different from the one that got the NBA to release Clarkson for national duty in last year’s Asian Games, where a very vocal Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) and a public clamor that dominated social media drew a favorable response for the Philippines.
But does that mean that Pangilinan would want what Fiba had said was the world’s greatest fans to be quiet?
“No, not at all,” said SBP president Al Panlilio. “What he means is that as a federation, we (the SBP) would want an approach that is not head-on.”
Recognized by Fiba in the 2014 World Cup in Spain as the world’s best fans, Filipinos went to all forms of media last year, blasting the NBA when it initially refused to allow Clarkson to suit up in the Jakarta Asiad.
The SBP, Panlilio earlier said, has already greased the wheels for Clarkson’s appeal. The national basketball federation is also expected to lobby the PBA board to allow Andray Blatche to suit up as an import in the Commissioner’s Cup so Gilas Pilipinas can prepare with him earlier.
But like the Clarkson bid, the SBP could face an uphill battle for Blatche, a knowledgeable source told the Inquirer, one that could focus on a single inch.
“If at all, Blatche would be subject to the rules governing imports in every conference,” said the source. “That means, even his height will be checked.”
The Commissioner’s Cup allows imports no taller than 6-foot-10. Though the league hasn’t officially measured Blatche, the former NBA player is listed as a shade over 6-11.
The SBP is hoping to pair Blatche with Clarkson in the World Cup, which Gilas Pilipinas recently booked tickets to in the last window of Fiba’s Asian qualifiers.
But with Clarkson granted only naturalized status despite his Filipino lineage, that pairing cannot materialize without a successful appeal. Clarkson acquired his Philippine passport after the required Fiba cutoff of 16 years old.
“We have committed to do our best (in seeking reconsideration from Fiba),” he said. “There are no assurances of guarantees. It’s up to them.”
The NBA will be out of the way in the Clarkson case in the coming World Cup with its season long concluded by the time China hosts the event in eight cities from Aug. 31 to Sept. 15.
Blatche, on the other hand, has just a few more games in China before he flies home to the US. If he is allowed to play as import, he will head here.
But not having obtained a passport before he was 16 years old disqualifies Clarkson from playing as a Filipino, and this is something that the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and president Al Panlilio will appeal.
“I don’t think there’s a single Filipino who doesn’t want Jordan Clarkson to play (with Gilas),” national coach Yeng Guiao said. “All of us want him. But it’s up to the process and what we can do about it.”
Guiao, incidentally, doesn’t want his squad to be satisfied by just making the main draw.
The mercurial coach is hoping for a favorable draw come March 15 in Shezhen, and have “photo ops” with powerhouse the United States later to be able to make the next round of the 32-nation conclave.
“(If we get) bracketed with the US (in the first phase), then we can do nothing about it but have photos taken with them,” Guiao said with a smile in a press conference at Meralco. “But if we can get wins to advance, we’ll take that.”
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