Isaiah Austin was nowhere to be found on Wednesday morning at the Meralco Gym in Pasig City, during Chooks to Go Pilipinas’ final practice session before flying this afternoon to Chenzhou, China for the 2017 FIBA Asia Champions Cup.
As it turns out, the 23-year-old American had flown to Hong Kong on Tuesday morning to apply for a Chinese visa.
“He’s in Hong Kong now, trying to get a visa,” confirmed Chooks head coach Chot Reyes of Austin’s whereabouts. “Hopefully he’s able to do that. He took the morning flight, kaka-landing lang niya.
“So wala pa tayong balita.”
Securing a visa in Hong Kong is just one of the contingencies of the team.
If ever his application will not be approved, the 7-foot-1 center will then fly to the United States of America as soon as possible and apply for a visa again.
“He might have to go back to LA (Los Angeles) to get his visa there,” the 54-year-old tactician rued. “Wala eh, ganun talaga.
“We did not anticipate na magkaka-problema pala sa Chinese visa here.”
But if worse comes to worst, the outspoken mentor lamented that they have no choice but to play through the Asian club cagefest without the former Baylor Bears center.
“Nako. Wala na tayong magagawa,” he said.
And if ever it happens, Chooks will then send second-generation cager Andre Paras as a replacement for Austin, as per the veteran coach.
According to team officials later in the day, Austin is set to receive his visa on Thursday morning.
On the brighter side of things, Chooks will not go into the tourney without any foreign aid. According to Reyes, the team just received an update that Congolese wingman Rodrigue Ebondo’s visa has been approved.
“Si Ebondo mukhang OK na. We got word na mukhang maayos na siya,” he said. “Until we have it (visa), it’s never a hundred percent.
“But we have been assured already na OK, so si Austin na lang [kulang].”