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MANILA, Philippines – It has been a decade since the opportunity to suit up for Gilas Pilipinas came for Chris Newsome, but the desire to don the national colors remains the same for the Meralco star.
In 2013, the Filipino-American guard flew to the country with hopes of playing for the Philippines in the Southeast Asian Games, but the plan fell through as Myanmar organizers decided to adopt FIBA eligibility rules.
FIBA requires foreign-born players to acquire the passport of the country they want to represent before they turn 16 years old.
Newsome obtained his Philippine passport when he was 20.
“I was actually going to suit up in the SEA Games when I first got here,” he said. “That was when they implemented the rule and that was when I found out that that dream is going to be on hold.”
“I was able to get my passport, get everything finalized. Once I got it, there was nothing we could do about that rule,” Newsome added.
Newsome also missed the chance to see action for the Bolts when they participated in the 2018 FIBA Asia Champions Cup after being ruled ineligible to play as a local.
He managed to compete and win a gold medal for the country in 3×3 basketball in the 2019 SEA Games held here as the event did not enforce FIBA eligibility rules.
But the former Ateneo standout inches closer to his dream as FIBA has already classified him a Filipino in its portal.
“[T]hey just went off the basis that I graduated from Ateneo de Manila, which is a Philippine school, and I’ve been living in the Philippines for more than 10 years already,” said Newsome.
“So they were hoping that that was a good basis, good foundation for me to be eligible as a local. Luckily enough, it turned out okay.”
Following his stellar play in the ongoing PBA Philippine Cup, Newsome is reportedly among the players considered for the national team pool for the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers later this August.
Through the quarterfinals, Newsome cracked the top 10 in statistical points with averages of 16.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 5.6 assists as he helped Meralco reach the final four.
“It is a big honor. Something I’ve always dreamed about is being able to wear a Pilipinas jersey,” Newsome said.
“Of course I’m not in [the final lineup yet], but just to be considered is already a blessing for me and I will not take that for granted or take that lightly at all.”
The possibility of Newsome playing in the fourth window, though, hinges on how far the Bolts would go in the All-Filipino tournament.
As agreed upon by the PBA and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, Gilas head coach Chot Reyes can tap any player from the 10 teams that will fail to reach the Philippine Cup finals.
“If the opportunity comes, I’ll give everything I have. That is just the type of player I am. I’ll give my all no matter what. Just kind of take it one step at a time,” Newsome said.
“Of course, my focus is here with Meralco. And Gilas? We’ll worry about that whenever we get there.” – Rappler.com