Naturalized players might get chance in PBA, but not soon–Willie Marcial
Andray Blatche and Marcus Douthit basically posted identical tweets that say they want to play in the PBA, the premier pro league of the country they once served—and served well.
Commissioner Willie Marcial heard them both.
“We’re not closing the door on that,” Marcial told the Inquirer over the phone on Tuesday, just hours after Douthit asked: “@pbaconnect, when [will] the PBA let the naturalized players play In the PBA?” through a tweet.
“But I believe that it won’t happen in the near future,” Marcial went on. “It’s possible. But definitely not close to happening at this point.”
Blatche, who helped the Philippines to its first win in more than 40 years in the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup, a 91-89 overtime nipping of Senegal in a group match in Seville, Spain, in 2014, has already declared his intentions to play.
“I wanna play,” Blatche, the former Brooklyn Net in the NBA, said in a tweet two days before.
The PBA had granted special exemptions for Douthit to play as an import in the past—for Blackwater and Air21—but it would be very unlikely for the league to allow a naturalized player to see action as a local since it would tilt the balance of power in a huge way.
Combined, the duo gave the country its biggest successes in the international scene in the modern time, with Douthit helping the Philippines beat South Korea in the semifinals of the 2013 Asia Cup before eventually finishing a fighting second to Iran before emotional fans at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
Blatche, meanwhile, was Gilas’ naturalized player when the Filipinos defeated Iran in the 2015 Asia Cup before losing a highly controversial title game against the Chinese in China.
Douthit and Blatche are part of the Gilas program that the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas under tycoon Manny Pangilinan hatched, and the team now has Ateneo’s Ange Kouame as its naturalized player.
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