Is Blatche the ideal reinforcement in Gilas’ tallest ever team in World Cup?

The Philippine Basketball Association has lifted the one player each per team rule to be loaned to Gilas Pilipinas, which gives head coach Chot Reyes more flexibility of fielding in his ideal team for the World Cup qualifier.

This will also provide the veteran bench tactician the opportunity to field in the tallest Philippine cage team ever.

Reigning four-time PBA Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo, the immovable 6-foot-10 slotman from the San Miguel Beermen, could team up with his long-time college rival, seven-foot Greg Slaughter, up front. Gilas Pilipinas already has Barangay Ginebra’s 6-foot-9 forward Japeth Aguilar, the most athletic big man in the PBA now, as well as 6-foot-8 Raymond Almazan of Rain or Shine.

If given opportunity, 6-foot-8 JP Erram of Blackwater is also a logical choice to join the rotation. Then, there’s Troy Rosario, the 6-foot-7 forward who could shift playing both forward positions.

These local players are more than a big help for ex-NBA player Andray Blatche, the 6-foot-11 naturalized player, who has been playing for Gilas Pilipinas for four years now.

The Philippine quintet is looking to make a return in the world stage. In 2014, the Filipinos were able to qualify and play in the FIBA World Cup in Seville, Spain, the first time for our country to qualify in 40 years.

But is Blatche still the ideal reinforcement for the Philippine team?

Once Gilas Pilipinas opted for size, which has always been an option, Reyes can afford to get the best talented reinforcement they could bring to shore up the national team’s campaign next year.

It’s time to fast track the inclusion of Fil-Am guard Jordan Clarkson of the Cleveland Cavaliers and have him wear the Philippine team’s colors in a major international competition.

Al Panlilio and Senator Sonny Angara, key officials of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, believe bringing in Clarkson has always been a priority — either as a local cager or as a naturalized player.

“That is always an option. We just have to see how viable that option will be, especially with Jordan’s commitment in the NBA. It is also important to note that preparation time for any team formed is critical,” wrote Panlilio, the president of the country’s governing body in basketball.

Angara had a different take on Clarkson’s possible inclusion on the Gilas roster.

“It’s possible, but right now we still need height, according to Coach Chot. But with the lifting of one player rule, that might change, although the big man game has changed somewhat,” added Angara.

But Angara encouraged Reyes and Gilas management to identify a pool of naturalized players who can be utilized by the team not just for the 2019 World Cup, but also the 2023 World Cup and other major events.

“Mas maganda nga maski tatlo eh, pwede na natin sabay-sabay isalang for naturalization, para hindi na tayo aabalahin parati everytime we need to naturalize players,” added Angara.

Former national team coach and current NLEX Road Warriors mentor Yeng Guiao agreed on Senator Angara’s take on identifying a pool of naturalized players, especially with Blatche not getting any younger.

“Sa totoo lang kasi yung life span ng naturalized players, ideally mga hanggang five years lang dapat. How many years naglaro sa atin si Marcus Douthit? Five rears, di ba? With Blatche, we should also think the same way because he’s not getting any younger. We need to identify a pool of naturalized players na bata,” added Guiao, whose national team didn’t get the same opportunity of having a naturalized player when he coached the Philippine squad in the 2009 FIBA Asia Championship.

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