AFTER the Federation International de Basketball Association (FIBA) allowed naturalized players to see action in its sanctioned tournaments in 1997, many countries, the Philippines included, have recruited the semi-imports to boost their line-ups.
No less than nine teams in FIBA-Asia Men’s Basketball Championship, which gets going August 1 at the Mall of Asia Arena, are fielding naturalized players, all of them with US origins.
South Korea has 6’6” naturalized American Gregory Stevenson, a Richmond, Virginia alumi. Stevenson is half Korean, having a Korean-American mother. The 34-year-old forward, who was naturalized in 2011, changed his name to “Moon Tae-Young.”
Kazakhstan will field 6’6” Jerry Johnson as backcourt general.
The 31-year-old Johnson, who played for Rider University in New Jersey, had international stints for the past seven years including the recent B.C. Astana Tigers in the Kazakh National League where they won the championship.
Bahrain has 6’11” Chester Jarrel “CJ” Giles, who was the first choice of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas for naturalization. The 27-year-old was released due to reported poor working habits. He suited up for Gilas Pilipinas in the 2009 Fiba Asia Champions Cup in Jakarta, Indonesia. He was once a former Los Angeles Laker and Golden State Warriors summer league player.
Bahrain is ranked 75th in the world by FIBA.
Jordan, which is grouped with the host Gilas Pilipinas, has Jimmy Baxter, a 6’6” shooting guard and small forward American from St. Petersburg, Florida. Baxter was not drafted in the NBA so he decided to play overseas and ended up with the Jordanian national team. He is an able replacement for Rasheim Wright. Jordan coach Vangelis Aleksandris can also assign the 32-year-old shooting guard to the small forward position because of his good perimeter shooting.
Chinese-Taipei has 6’9” Quincy Davis, a forward/center from Tulane University in New Orleans, who was naturalized in June 2013. He is a complete player who can score and rebound. After his stint with the World Basketball League, Davis played mostly abroad particularly in Taiwan for the last two years.
The Philippines is retaining 6”11 Marcus Douthit, who is on his second tour of duty for the host team. The 33-year-old former Providence College standout was drafted 56th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2004 NBA.
Douthit’s presence gives the Philippines a strong chance of making it to the World Championship next year in Madrid, Spain.
Japan, a former Asian basketball power, will parade 6’8” JR Sakuragi, the man formerly known as Milton “JR” Hen-derson, who has been living Japan since 2007. The 36-year-old Sakuragi took his surname from the popular Japanese manga character in Slam Dunk. He is a University of California alumni and was drafted 56th overall in the second round of the 1998 NBA Draft by the Vancouver (now Memphis) Grizzlies.
Qatar signed 6’8 Jarvis Hayes, a 10th overall draft in the NBA by the Washington Wizards in 2003. Hayes belongs to the class that produced LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony, among others. The 31-year-old Hayes averaged 8.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in a seven-year NBA career that included stints with the Detroit Pistons and the New Jersey Nets.
Lebanon will have Loren Woods, who has been playing for Al Riyadh team in Beirut since 2010. He was part of the Lebanese team that won the FIBA Asia Champions Cup in 2011 held in Manila.
The 35-year old 7’2” center was granted Lebanese citizenship only this month. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Woods had played for Wake Forest alongside Tim Duncan before transferring to Arizona. He was selected by the Minnesota Timber-wolves in the second round of the 2001 NBA Draft as 45th overall. He spent two years with the Tim-berwolves before the Miami Heat picked him up. He also suited up for the Toronto Raptors before venturing as an international basketball player.