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MANILA, Philippines – A 6-foot-4 guard who is a deadshot from long distance like Ken Tuffin should be an asset for Gilas Pilipinas.
Tuffin said he is open to join the national team as he plans to stay in the Philippines for the foreseeable future after a three-year stint in the New Zealand National Basketball League as he is set to play for Phoenix in the PBA.
He got selected sixth overall by the Fuel Masters in what is considered the deepest PBA Rookie Draft class in recent years.
“I’m always open to it. I’m back in the country now, so if ever I get that call and that my career is going to be here now for the next few years with Phoenix, I’ll be ready,” said Tuffin.
The Filipino-Kiwi standout has long been on Gilas Pilipinas’ radar, with former head coach Chot Reyes including Tuffin in the 23-man pool for the 2023 FIBA World Cup back in 2018.
Circumstances, though, prevented Tuffin from donning the national colors.
After a four-year run with the FEU Tamaraws in the UAAP, Tuffin opted to forego his final year of collegiate eligibility at the height of the coronavirus pandemic and brought his act to the semi-pro New Zealand NBL.
Tuffin first played for the Taranaki Mountainairs before he joined the Wellington Saints, a team he helped win a championship in 2021.
His steady play earned him a call-up from the New Zealand national team, with the Tall Blacks including him to their pool for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Fortunately for Gilas Pilipinas, Tuffin never got to suit up for New Zealand as he remains eligible to represent the Philippines.
His decision to pursue a PBA career only brings him closer to a potential Gilas Pilipinas link-up.
“I felt like there was a lot of unfinished business, right?” said Tuffin. “I did not get to play in my last year in FEU because of the pandemic.”
“Otherwise, I would’ve went to the PBA draft after my senior year, so I took a three-year pro stint in New Zealand. I feel like that was really great for me and my development.”
Tuffin enters the PBA as arguably the best shooting rookie, averaging a scintillating 49% from three-point land during the Saints’ title run.
He also ruled the Three-Point Contest in the PBA Draft Combine, where he scored 15 of the possible 18 points.
“I feel like my IQ is a lot better when I was here in the Philippines. I think the one thing Phoenix likes is my versatility, knowing that I can play the 2 or the 3 primarily but also switching out to the 4 if I need to,” Tuffin said. – Rappler.com