Andray Blatche may now be on board, but it wouldn’t stop Team Pilipinas from seeking additional help in its long-term program.
SBP president Al Panlilio said the national squad should start looking for the next batch of naturalized prospects, especially now that the 32-year-old Blatche is already entering the twilight of his basketball career.
Panlilio said instead of eyeing just one naturalized player, the country should have at least two to make sure that somebody will be available whenever the squad competes in major international tournaments.
“I’ve been saying this even back during coach Chot Reyes’ time that we should have two to three naturalized players,” said Panlilio in an interview.
“You’ll never know. What if the reinforcement gets injured? We should have a backup who will be available anytime.”
Panlilio, the governor of Meralco in the Philippine Basketball Association, said the naturalized prospects do not necessarily have to be centers.
It all depends on the variation of lineups and on the needs of head coach Yeng Guiao.
“Coach Yeng already did it with Christian Standhardinger and Stanley Pringle,” Panlilio said, referring to the two naturalized players who are taking turns in suiting up for the Nationals in the ongoing FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
“He shuffles them depending on the opponents. Standhardinger suits up to add height and strength while Pringle is being tapped for speed and playmaking.”
Among possible naturalized players, the most prominent is former Ginebra import Justin Brownlee, whose application for naturalization was already submitted in the House of Representatives as early as last August.
Panlilio also revealed that former PBA reinforcement Liam McMorrow also showed interest.
The seven-footer from Canada, in fact, was supposed to reinforce the Bolts in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup last year, but he crashed with an injury, prompting the squad to tap Diamond Stone as replacement.
“He said he’s committed. Liam is 7-foot-2 so he could be a huge help,” said Panlilio, adding that they have to move fast because the naturalization process in the Philippines takes some time to iron out.
“We have no time to do it for the qualifiers, but again, we still have to make a decision on who will be the right players to naturalize because naturalization is a process.”