Gilas not likely to naturalize guards like Lakers’ Clarkson, says Baldwin

MANILA, Philippines – It’s possible, but it’s not likely to happen.

Despite Fil-Am Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson expressing interest in playing for the national team, head coach Tab Baldwin admitted Gilas Pilipinas is not likely to naturalize guards in the near future, stating that big men are still the priority.

“The difficult thing for Jordan is traditionally the Philippines needs a big man in a naturalized role,” he said Sunday, March 22 following Talk ’N Text’s twice-to-beat clinching win over Alaska in the 2015 PBA Commissioner’s Cup.

“If there ever came a time that we needed a guard, it’s great to know that Jordan is available. He’s easy to naturalize.” 

The 22-year old rising NBA rookie previously expressed interest in joining the Philippine team, conveying pride over his heritage.

“It definitely would mean a lot,” Clarkson said of the Gilas prospect in a report on NBA.com. “It’s just one of those things you want to do, like how I want to make my city proud and make that country proud as well.” 

But Clarkson, whose mother Annette Davis is Filipino, is hindered by an existing FIBA rule requiring players with two nationalities to acquire dual citizenship with the country they want to represent before turning 16.

It is a strict rule enforced by the World Basketball Federation and Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas Executive Director Sonny Barrios already shot down any hopes of an exemption. 

A workaround, however, is naturalizing Clarkson. Barrios reportedly wrote to FIBA inquiring of that possibility. But Baldwin made it clear that even if it can happen, naturalizing guards is not what Gilas needs in the foreseeable future.

“Obviously he would be a phenomenal candidate for us,” Baldwin explained. “But in the short term I don’t see that likelihood but it’s nice to know that that’s there and he has that feeling for the country and that desire to represent us.”

“So, 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,” he added.

The Philippines currently has two naturalized players, both centers, in Marcus Douthit and Andray Blatche, who represented the country in the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

Baldwin is currently preparing with a 16-man Sinag cadet pool for the upcoming SEA Games in June and the SEABA Championship in April, which is a qualifying tournament for the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in China this September.

He is also busy preparing a pool for the Gilas tryouts.

Gilas hopes to land nothing less than the gold in the continental tournament and book a ticket to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. – Rappler.com