It’s less than three years away from when the Philippines will host four preliminary round groups, two second round brackets and the knockout stage from the quarterfinals to the final of the FIBA World Cup on Aug. 25-Sept. 10, 2023. With the recent introduction of the event logo and the start of the 1,000-day countdown, the level of anticipation has fueled a lot of speculation as to the composition of the Gilas pool.
No doubt, six-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo is expected to anchor the national team. He’ll be 33 by then and even more mature, mentally and physically, as a player. Asked to single out a few preferred teammates if he should make it to the 12-man squad, Fajardo named Jordan Clarkson and Kai Sotto. “Gusto ko makasama si Jordan and then si Kai,” he said. “For sure, ‘andoon si Kai. Sana lahat kami makalaro. Kung sino nandoon, suportahan na lang natin then gawin natin lahat para makakuha ng panalo so maging proud ang ating mga kababayan.”
Clarkson will be 31 when the World Cup unfolds. The Fil-Am was recently re-signed to a four-year $52 million contract by the Utah Jazz in the NBA, meaning if he suits up for Gilas, there will be quite an insurance premium to be paid. Clarkson played for the Philippines at the 2018 Asian Games and is proud of his Filipino heritage. FIBA, however, classifies him as an import, not a local, with the Philippine team despite his bloodline. FIBA’s basis is place of birth or jus soli (law of the soil), not jus sanguinis (right of blood).
SBP is appealing for FIBA to recognize Clarkson as a local. FIBA recently classified US-born, Indonesian-American Brandon Jawato as a local with the Indonesian team even though he received his Indonesian passport only last October at the age of 27. Jawato is clearly an exception to the FIBA rule that a foreign-born player is eligible to play as a local only if issued a passport of the country he or she is representing before turning 16, with or without blood lineage. FIBA has granted exemptions in the past to foreign-born players on the basis of residence like South Sudan’s Thon Maker, classified as an Australian local. Jawato has lived in Jakarta the last five years.
If Clarkson is recognized as a local, Gilas will be able to enlist Ivory Coast’s Angelo Kouame as a naturalized import for the World Cup. Kouame will be 25 and should have been naturalized by then. Foreign-born players with Filipino lineage like Christian Standhardinger and Stanley Pringle should also be recognized as locals because they live in Manila and play in the PBA. Pringle will be 36 and Standhardinger, 34 when the World Cup begins.
Isaac Go, who played for Gilas in the first and second FIBA Asia Cup qualifying windows this year, said if he’s picked to play in the World Cup, Sotto would be a solid teammate. “I’ve seen Kai play and I think it would be amazing to play with him especially with the development he’s going to make in the US and in the G-League so I can’t wait,” he said. Sotto will be 21 in 2023. Matt Nieto, another first and second window player, said he’d like Kouame to make the team. “Ever since naging teammate ko siya sa Ateneo, he wanted to represent the Philippines and nakita ko ang commitment niya,” said Nieto. “He really wants to help the Philippine team in whatever way he can so I know he’s going to do everything para mag-represent ng country natin so I’m actually excited for him.” Go will be 27 and Nieto, 26 when the World Cup reels off.
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