No more Gilas stint for Kamaka Hepa?

Fil-American center Kamaka Hepa is about to make his debut in a FIBA competition. Not for the Philippines though, but for basketball powerhouse USA.

Scheduled from June 10 to 16 in St. Catharines, Canada, the reigning Americas Under-18 champions USA is set to take on seven other North and South American member nations in the biennial tournament.

USA Basketball, the basketball governing body of the United States, recently announced its roster for the FIBA Under-18 Americas Championship for Men.

The 6-foot-9 Hepa made it to the final list of 12 players that will comprise Team USA, to be coached by University of Kansas mentor Bill Self.

Hepa burst into the Philippine hoops scene in 2017 as a member of Fil-Am Sports – a foreign team that competed in the National Basketball Training Center (NBTC) National Finals. Hepa impressed in his NBTC stint in 2017 which drew the attention of college scouts and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP).

Along with other NBTC standouts, Hepa was once considered as a prospect for future Gilas Pilipinas squads.

A four-star recruit out of Portland’s Jefferson High School, the 18 year-old is slated to see action in US NCAA Division I for the Texas Longhorns.

With the USA Basketball call-up, the likelihood of Hepa suiting up someday for the Philippines may have gone slim. Or has it?

FOX Sports Philippines sought confirmation from Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes regarding Hepa’s eligibility status. Asked if Hepa would be barred from playing for the Philippines in the future, Reyes gave a short, yet meaningful reply.

“Nope,” quipped the long-time Philippine team mentor.

Scouring through Book 3 of the FIBA Internal Regulations, Chapters 1 and 2 discuss eligibility and transfer procedures of national team players. FOX Sports PH lifted some pertinent sections from the FIBA document that may allow a Gilas Pilipinas stint for Hepa in the future:

Players with Two or More Nationalities

22. A player who has played in a main official competition of FIBA before reaching his seventeenth (17) birthday may play for a national team of another country if both national member federations agree; in the absence of an agreement the Secretary General decides.

23. A player who has played in a main official competition of FIBA after having reached his seventeenth (17) birthday may not play for a national team of another country. However, in exceptional circumstances the Secretary General may authorise such a player to play for the national team of his country of origin if he is ineligible to play for such country according to this article 3-23 and if this is in the interest of the development of basketball in this country. An administrative fee as stipulated in article 3-305 and decided by the Secretary General is payable to FIBA.

Letter of Clearance

42. A letter of clearance must be obtained from the national member federation where a player was last licensed before he can be licensed by another member federation. A copy of each letter of clearance must be sent (also by email) to FIBA. This document certifies that the player concerned is free to be licensed by another member federation.

Age Limit/Young Players

50. International transfer is not permitted before a player’s eighteenth (18) birthday, except in special cases as decided by the Secretary General after examination of the matter with the member federations and, if necessary, with the clubs and the player concerned. The Secretary General may request any documents deemed necessary in order to determine whether the transfer falls under article 3-51 or 3-52 below.

51. If the proposed transfer is not linked to basketball, the transfer may be authorised.

52. If the proposed transfer is linked to basketball, the following criteria shall be taken into account when making the decision on the authorisation of the transfer:

a. The player’s new club shall guarantee adequate academic and/or school and/or vocational training which prepares him for a career after his career as a professional player.

b. The new club shall provide appropriate basketball training in order to develop and/or further the player’s career as a professional player.

c. The new club shall demonstrate that it conducts an appropriate training program for young players of the nationality of the club’s home country.

d. The new club shall make a contribution to a Solidarity Fund established by FIBA to
support the development of young players.

e. The young player, his parents, the new club, and the new national member federation shall declare in writing that, until his eighteenth (18) birthday, the player will make himself available for his home country’s national team and, if necessary, for the preparation time as well as for training camps provided that they do not interfere with school activities.

f. The transfer does not disrupt the player’s schooling.


Can the transfer be done? From the looks of it, a tedious transfer procedure would have to be followed by the SBP, with concurrence from USA Basketball, to be able to acquire Hepa.

Is it still a possibility? Only time, and Hepa’s desire and commitment, will tell.

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