SEA Games 2023

Animam questions SEA Games essence as countries bank on naturalized players in basketball

Delfin Dioquino

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Animam questions SEA Games essence as countries bank on naturalized players in basketball

STEP UP. Gilas Women beat a Cambodian side parading four naturalized player in women's 3x3 basketball in the 2023 SEA Games.

Chalinee Thirasupa/REUTERS

'Why are we doing this SEA Games if we're not fielding our own homegrown talent?' says Gilas Women star Jack Animam

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – What is the Southeast Asian Games for if countries choose to field a bunch of naturalized players for a greater chance at medals?

Gilas Women star Jack Animam raised this question after host Cambodia tapped foreign players to carry its flag in the men’s and women’s 3×3 basketball competition, where it claimed a gold and finished fourth, respectively.

The Philippine 3×3 men’s and women’s basketball teams wound up settling for silver after dramatic runs to the final round.

Cambodia snagged its first-ever gold in SEA Games basketball after outlasting Gilas Men behind the trio of Sayeed Pridgett, Brandon Peterson, and Darrin Dorsey.

WNBA draftee Meighan Sharee Simmons, Mariah Cooks, Kim Hanlon, and Brittany Dinkins, meanwhile, represented Cambodia in women’s action.

“Of course, it’s unfair, especially to countries which have limited funds,” said Animam in a mix of Filipino and English.

“If there’s going to be imports like these, I don’t think the essence of SEA Games is there,” she added. “Why are we doing this SEA Games if we’re not fielding our own homegrown talent?”

Just like Cambodia, the Philippines also has naturalized players in its roster.

Seeking to regain its lost glory in men’s 5-on-5 basketball, Gilas Pilipinas will be led by the likes of Justin Brownlee, Christian Standhardinger, and Chris Ross.

Brownlee completed his naturalization just this year, while Standhardinger and Ross are considered naturalized players under FIBA rules since they failed to get their Philippine passports before they turned 16 years old.

The only difference is Ross and Standhardinger have Filipino roots and Brownlee played six years in the PBA before being naturalized, while Cambodia’s players never saw action for the country prior to the SEA Games.

Pridgett, Peterson, Dorsey, Simmons, Cooks, Hanlon, and Dinkins are also expected to suit up for Cambodia in 5-on-5 basketball.

“For me, SEA Games is to show your talent, the ones you have from your country,” said Animam. “If you’re just getting from other countries, I think this is just like a pro league.”

Gilas Women proved they can win with homegrown talent as Animam, Afril Bernardino, Janine Pontejos, and Mikka Cacho stunned Cambodia in the semifinals following a nail-biting 21-20 win.

The Filipinas, though, fell short of the grand prize after a 21-16 loss to Vietnam, led by the twins of Kayleigh and Kaylynne Truong who both play for Gonzaga University in the US NCAA.

“We will be back and we will be better,” said Animam.

Animam and Gilas Women shoot for a three-peat in women’s 5-on-5 basketball, which will tip off on Tuesday, May 9. –

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.