As we talk about the inevitable retirement of Andray Blatche from Gilas service, we need to examine our options. Keep in mind that we can only have ONE naturalized player in our team, so we have to make sure that we maximize that chance.
Our team will evolve, as more young players develop. In our pool for the FIBA World Cup, we have included rookies Robert Bolick and CJ Perez. Another rookie, Ray Parks, Jr. has declined the invitation.
For sure, there will be more rookie additions to the pool next year with a very deep draft. The changing of the guard is imminent and inevitable. But one thing you notice about the new additions — they’re all guards.
We also have international prospects in the international field. We have a legitimate NCAA Division I champion, Kihei Clark of the Virginia Cavaliers. Other prospects like Remy Martin of Arizona State University. What do they have in common? They are point guards.
Even our very own NBA player, Jordan Clarkson, he’s a guard. We have used him as a small forward in the Asian Games, the same way we used Gabe Norwood who was a guard in George Mason when they went on a Cinderella run.
We definitely have other prospects but we don’t have a center in the pipeline. This is why we have been monitoring every breath Kai Sotto is taking.
Talent over position
Here’s a common debate during NBA drafts (even in the PBA). Should we choose a player based on what the team needs, or should we just pick the best talent available?
The naturalization bill (which starts the long and complicated process) for Justin Brownlee has commenced. Brownlee is one of the most successful imports to visit our shores. A proven winner with the Ginebra Gin Kings, he has the talent and the attitude that we would want to have in our team.
We should not just be handing out Filipino citizenship to anyone, just because he can help our basketball team. Character should also count, and some would argue that the current issues surrounding Calvin Abueva is further proof of this.
Side note: Accusations are still just allegations, so we should not be quick to judge Calvin Abueva for his domestic issues. I would definitely not dip my fingers into a possible legal matter, one that transcends basketball. We can discuss his behavior on the court, where there is a standard expected from all parties involved (not just players, but also coaches, staff, even referees).
As professionals, there is an ethical baseline that one cannot thread. This is true with most regulated professions and for sports, we have the Games and Amusements Board as the authority.
Brownlee has been a model citizen and he has displayed a genuine desire to stay here in the Philippines, embracing the people and the culture. We should all celebrate his intention to play for our country with open arms.
There is still that nagging question — is he the long term answer for Gilas? He can definitely help any Philippine team as he has played multiple positions and contended with taller imports. But can he truly replace what Andray Blatche brings?
Replacing Dray will be tough
The truth is we lucked out on Andray Blatche. He is a genuine NBA talent, he just didn’t want the grind of the NBA season. China’s season is more forgiving. He has the size to match up against international big men but still create on offense. Brownlee can do the latter, but still be at a disadvantage on the former.
When we have good imports, we talk about how they could be a candidate. Terrence Jones is probably the player most approximate to Blatche and his son has Filipino ties, so he could be interested in staying the long haul.
It’s a safe bet that Talk N’ Text is probably doing its due diligence to lock him in and it will be a service to the country as well. But the NBA reportedly beckons—no less than his former team, the Houston Rockets.
Next column, we discuss Chris McCullough, Angelo Kouame and other candidates.