Gilas Pilipinas might play without a naturalized player in the coming International Basketball Federation (FIBA) World Cup qualifiers starting this November.
Head coach Chot Reyes admitted this could pose a big problem for the team as it bids to return to the World Cup stage in 2019 in China.
Reyes said Andray Blatche has a commitment with his Chinese ballclub Xinjiang Tigers during that period while Filipino-German Christian Standhardinger, the team’s other naturalized player, just signed up a six-month contract with a Hong Kong club in the Asean Basketball League (ABL).
“It’s either we play with (Andray) Blatche, or (Christian) Standhardinger, or we will go all Filipino. There’s a complication with Blatche because by November he will be playing in China, so we don’t know if his Chinese team will allow him to play for us,” said Reyes on Thursday in Gilas homecoming arranged by sponsor Chooks to Go at Marco Polo Hotel in Ortigas.
“I’m thankful we have someone like Christian. He will play with Hong Kong but I wish he can be with us,” added Reyes.
Blatche skipped the recent FIBA Asia Cup in Beirut, Lebanon, which allowed Standhardinger to display his prowess. The PH 5 finished seventh in the competition.
Reyes said they have yet to get a commitment from the camp of Blatche if he will be allowed to play in the new qualifying format – a home-and-away style.
The Philippine team is bracketed in Group B along with Chinese Taipei, Japan and Australia and will play home-and-away games starting this November.
Standhardinger, who made a good account of himself in the Beirut gig, was signed up by ABL defending champion Hong Kong Eastern Lions. The new ABL season will start mid-November.
The 6-foot-8 also played for Gilas in the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and helped the country defend its title in the biennial meet.
Reyes said looking for their replacement would be difficult at this stage.
“It’s not easy to look for a guy like Andray. We are talking to several players and prospects but that’s not easy because we have to go through Congress. That’s just how difficult our situation is,” Reyes lamented.
Reyes suggested a longer preparation for the World Cup qualifiers to offset the possibility of playing without a naturalized player.
“The (SBP) Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas will continue to find ways on how to improve the team. We have a MOA in place between SBP and PBA (Philippine Basketball Association). It is a working progress and we have to continuously address it,” he said.
“We must identify our training camp and I wish we will have at least one month to train.”