MANILA, Philippines – The state of the Philippine national basketball team took an unexpected turn on Monday, August 24, when it was revealed that Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson actually acquired a Philippine passport before turning 16-years-old, making him eligible to suit up for Gilas Pilipinas.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas Director Sonny Barrios told Rappler on Monday in a phone call that reports of Clarkson's eligibility to play as a "natural born" Filipino player were true.
Barrios says that the 23-year-old Clarkson has held a Philippine passport for 11 years - making him a pre-teen when he became a citizen.
“In 2004, if I’m not mistaken,” Barrios said.
Barrios said that Clarkson’s camp submitted his documents and that the SBP knew that he acquired his Filipino passport before turning 16 even during Clarkson’s first visit to the Philippines back in May.
“We just didn’t tell it to the public,” said Barrios, who says that SBP wanted to submit the Laker guard’s other documents required by FIBA for his eligibility before making the news public.
“He’s submitted his documents,” Barrios said. “It has been submitted to FIBA, who’s asking for supporting documents. As we speak, those are being submitted to them.”
Some of the supporting documents being requested for include Clarkson’s birth certificate and other legal documents of his mom, Annette, who was born in Angeles, Pampanga.
“It’s a process that we have to request and honor,” said Barrios, who is still unsure if Clarkson will get to suit up for Gilas in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship as they await FIBA approval. “We have to be patient, and we go by FIBA’s process.”
The sudden news of Clarkson’s passport is confusing because of prior statements by Gilas figureheads stating that he was ineligible except to play as a naturalized player.
Former national team head coach Chot Reyes said in a tweet that he had actually tried recruiting Clarkson for Gilas in 2011, but that he was ineligible.
“Spoke to him 2 yrs ago pa. He’s ineligible,” was Reyes’ response to an inquiry if Gilas ever approached Clarkson about playing.
Spoke to him 2 yrs ago pa. He’s ineligible RT @Claggi : @coachot did gilas never discover Jordan Clarkson of the Lakers? — Chot Reyes (@coachot) January 31, 2015
In 2011 I recruited Jordan Clarkson, Steph Holt, Jason Brickman, Christian Standhardinger for d Asian Games, since it's not under FIBA rules — Chot Reyes (@coachot) September 10, 2014
Current Gilas head coach Tab Baldwin also made the same assertion, saying that, even if the 6-foot-5 Clarkson were interested in being the team’s naturalized player, it’s likely he wouldn’t be considered for the role seeing as the Philippines needs a big man to be its naturalized player - a spot currently held by Andray Blatche.
“… it’s a possibility but it’s not that likely that we’ll need a guard all of a sudden instead of a big man,” said Baldwin.
Even a report on lakers.com from March states that he is ineligible to play for the Philippine team due to FIBA’s rule mandating players to acquire dual citizenship before they turn 16, and that Clarkson was looking for an exemption.
Under FIBA’s eligibility rules, the Secretary General will take into account “the numbers of years during which the player has lived in the country,” before granting an exemption, as well as other key factors like:
“The number of seasons during which the player has participated in domestic competitions in the country,” and “any other criteria capable of establishing a significant link between the player and the country.”
It’s possible, however unlikely, that Clarkson didn’t mention his acquisition of a Filipino passport to the Lakers’ website, or that it simply wasn’t known to both Reyes and Baldwin.
A member of the NBA’s All-Rookie team last season, Clarkson would be a huge addition for Gilas. The Tampa, Fla.-born Clarkson averaged 11.9 points, 3.5 assists, and 3.2 rebounds a game during the 2014-15 NBA season.
Much needed reinforcements
The Gilas pool, which recently went 0-3 in a pocket tournament in Estonia, isn’t at full strength with key players having begged off. One of which is June Mar Fajardo, the two-time reigning PBA MVP who is nursing plantar fasciitis issues on both feet after a gruelling season.
Veterans like Ranidel de Ocampo (hamstring) and Kelly Williams (MCL) are currently out of action while Marc Pingris’ situation is still in doubt after he initially begged off from Gilas but decided to change his mind and make himself available.
One of the national team’s mainstays from the past few seasons, LA Tenorio, isn’t in the pool as he seeks to rest after non-stop international competition over the past few years.
Notable players missing from the pool include Marcio Lassiter, Paul Lee, Jeff Chan, and more.
Clarkson is scheduled to arrive in Manila on Monday as he’s been invited to “observe” Gilas’ practices. The Laker is also expected to fly with the team to Taiwan for the William Jones Cup that begins on August 29.
Filipino basketball fans - and national teams across Asia - will be watching how this develops closely. – Rappler.com