MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas will be working hard to have NBA player Jordan Clarkson declared eligible for the 2019 FIBA World Cup as it celebrated its “against all odds” qualification on Monday, February 25.
Former NBA player Andray Blatche led the way as the Philippines waylaid Kazakhstan, 93-75, in Astana on Sunday to grab Asia’s final qualifying spot for the tournament in China.
Filipino-American Clarkson represented the Philippines in last year’s Asian Games, but the World Cup operates under FIBA rules which could classify him as naturalized as he obtained his Filipino passport after the age of 16.
FIBA also restricts each team to only one naturalized player, meaning the Philippines would have to choose between the Cleveland Cavaliers guard and Blatche, who acquired Filipino nationality by naturalization.
However, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) is trying to convince FIBA to accept Clarkson as a Filipino citizen.
“We have been trying to convince or discuss the matter with FIBA,” SBP president Al Panlilio told AFP. “Everyone is working on the matter and we will do everything we can to make it happen.”
“Based on our constitution, he is Filipino. He has a passport. But he got it after he was 16 years old,” Panlilio added.
Having both Clarkson and Blatche play would be a “deadly combination” for the Philippines, who were eliminated in the preliminary round of the 2014 World Cup, said sports commentator Quinito Henson.
“His combination with Andray Blatche plus the other Filipino players will make the Philippines competitive against the best in the world,” Henson told AFP.
The Philippines’ campaign looked bleak after it had 10 players, including Blatche, suspended for the shocking fight with Australia last July.
But it squeezed through as the best 4th placer following the final round of qualifiers over the weekend. (WATCH: Gilas blasts Kazakhstan to punch FIBA World Cup ticket)
“It’s been a journey and it’s been quite difficult because you know we had a major issue with the Australian incident, the brawl,” Panlilio said.
“The stars really had to align for us… We are very happy and proud to be back in the World Cup.” – Rappler.com