With Clarkson on Jazz duty, SBP looks to grease naturalization wheels of Brownlee and Oliver
Justin Brownlee could end up taking the spot of Jordan Clarkson in the coming November window of the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup Asian Qualifiers, with the well-loved Barangay Ginebra import having already completed requisite documents for naturalization.
“We hope to remain competitive against strong teams even at a time when Jordan is not available,” said national coach Chot Reyes.
Brownlee is one of two imports being eyed for naturalization, the other being former National Basketball Association (NBA) journeyman Cameron Oliver, TNT’s import in the upcoming Commissioner’s Cup. But the resident reinforcement of the Gin Kings had already been a candidate for naturalization and thus had already began facilitating his documentary requirements.
Oliver, meanwhile, has already started processing his papers.
The national program is looking to build a stable of naturalized players to aid its preparation for the 2023 World Cup which the country will host for the times when Clarkson, who is expected to lead the Philippines in the Fiba showcase, is unavailable.
“For example in May [next year], for the [Southeast Asian Games], if we have someone like Justin, I think we can reclaim the gold [medal],” Reyes said.
Also already available for national team duty is Ateneo center Ange Kouame, who already has a Philippine passport after completing his naturalization earlier.
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) asked the Senate Committee on Sports to help fast-track the naturalization of Brownlee and Oliver.
“We ask the help to facilitate the naturalization process to cover certain windows where for example Jordan won’t be available. We know that there is a November window coming. I know it’s very tight so the request is to have one by that time,” SBP president Al Panlilio told the panel.
The committee assured the national program it will get all the help it needs for the World Cup.
For now, Reyes said he has already gotten assurances that he can have all the players he wants to tap for the upcoming windows.
“We’ve been given assurance that the players we’d tap for the fifth and sixth windows will be allowed to play. But the important thing here is not only the availability of the players, but also the practice time, the preparation time,” said Reyes, the concurrent program director.
“We will start our Monday practices next week. And when we’re near the games in November, we’ll take things up a notch,” Reyes added. “It’s not ideal, but it’s a lot better than [the setup before].”
The Philippines holds a 3-3 win-loss record in Group E, and is looking to annex a second straight victory after whipping Saudi Arabia, 84-46, in the fourth window. The Nationals play the Jordanians next on Nov. 10 and then take on the Saudis again three days later, this time without Clarkson.
Clarkson will be occupied with his duties with the Utah Jazz in the NBA, which opens its new season in October. That means Gilas won’t have its foremost weapon not only for November, but also in February next year, when the Philippines figures in rematches against Lebanon and Jordan.
The Philippines doesn’t need to win any of its window assignments, having already qualified for the World Cup by virtue of being the tournament’s main cohost. But the program is using the qualifying games as a means to lay down a system that the national team will run during the basketball centerpiece, which will tip off in August next year.
It remains to be seen how soon the Senate intends to get the ball rolling for Brownlee and Oliver. Kouame, meanwhile, has said he will remain on standby should a Gilas Pilipinas callup materialize.
There is also the question of who will be available for the weekly training of the national team.
Aside from Clarkson, also with international commitments include Ray Parks Jr., Thirdy and Kiefer Ravena, Dwight Ramos and 7-foot-3 big man Kai Sotto.
That leaves standouts from the Philippine Basketball Association and the University Athletic Association of the Philippines as likely Monday trainees—along with Brownlee and Oliver. INQ