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Aquino seeks naturalized star

I’m still looking for a naturalized player, a much taller one who could help us.

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PATRICK Aquino is looking to reinforce the Gilas Women team with a naturalized player. / PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF FIBA

The women’s national basketball team is now banking on naturalization to further boost its program for major international tournaments.

Gilas Women’s head coach Patrick Aquino said they are exploring the possibility of adding a naturalized player on their roster to boost their firepower in the international stage.

He said their goal is to recruit a young cager who could provide extra ceiling and can easily fit with the team’s fast-paced system.

“I’m still looking for a naturalized player, a much taller one who could help us. Someone that we can’t get here locally,” Aquino said.

“For me, I think we should get a younger (naturalized) player.”

Naturalization process is no longer new in the Gilas program, as the men’s team had enlisted a couple of foreign players like Marcus Douthit and Andray Blatche.

Douthit, a former Providence star, led Gilas to the silver medal in the 2013 FIBA Asia Men’s Championship while Blatche, who used to play for the Brooklyn Nets and Washington Wizards in the National Basketball Association, carried the cudgels in two editions of the FIBA World Cup in 2014 and 2019.

Early this year, Ateneo de Manila University standout Angelo Kouame of Ivory Coast was granted with Filipino citizenship, enabling him to represent the country in major tourneys, including the FIBA World Cup that the country will host in 2023.

In 2017, Gilas Women set its sights on the naturalization of Kelly Hardeman of the United States followed by another prospect in National University cager Rhena Itesi of Congo in 2019.

Aquino said for now, they are looking at bringing in Filipina-French Mai-Loni Henson as reinforcement while the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas continues to explore other potential candidates for naturalization.

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