MANILA, Philippines – With just months to go before Gilas Pilipinas competes in the FIBA World Cup, opinions remain divided regarding the practice of naturalizing basketball players for the Philippine national basketball team.
There are plans to naturalize Brooklyn Nets forward/center Andray Blatche to beef up Gilas for the World Cup in August, while naturalized player Marcus Douthit played an integral part in helping the national team clinch a spot in the tournament during the FIBA Asia Championships last year.
But fans, along with members of the basketball community, cannot seem to agree on whether or not naturalizing players is good for the game.
“Wala naman akong nakikitang masama,” Rain or Shine guard Paul Lee said in a “Failon Ngayon” report. “’Yung ibang team nga, sobrang malalaki na sila, pero nagna-naturalize pa rin sila.”
“Kung naturalization ‘yung magdadala ng glory sa Pilipinas, eh di why not, di ba?” added La Salle star Jeron Teng.
But PBA legends Freddie Webb and Atoy Co suggested that it will be more meaningful if an “all-Filipino” team is sent to the World Cup – even if it means losing.
“Sino nga ba ang ayaw manalo? S’yempre gusto mo manalo ka, ‘di ba, as long as you play within the rules of the game,” said Webb. “Pero sa kabilang dako naman, kalahati ng puso ay nagsasabi na bakit natin gagawin ‘yun, samantalang dapat ay tayo’y nagmamalaki na tayo’y Pilipino, at tayo’y lumalaban.”
“Kahit na matalo na lang, pero lalaro tayo ng All Filipino,” he added.
“Parang mas masarap pag manalo ka na talagang ang lahat ng members ng team mo ay all Filipino, talagang may dugong Filipino,” said Co.
Rep. Robbie Puno, who filed for Douthit’s naturalization, said there was nothing wrong with naturalizing foreigners to play for the basketball team and pointed out that the Philippines was not the only country doing so.
“Marami pong bansa ang nagna-naturalize ng kanilang mga players para lang sa ganoon, mapagaling ang kanilang basketball team,” Puno said.
“Gusto ko rin po sana na lumaban tayo sa basketball ng patas,” he added.
Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes last week unveiled the 17-man pool that will undergo training for the FIBA Asia World Cup. Blatche will be included in the list if his naturalization pushes through.