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2023 FIBA World Cup

Rep. Mikee Romeo asks SBP to expand naturalization candidates to five

House Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero once again urged the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) to submit at least five names as possible candidates for naturalization for the Gilas Pilipinas Men program. 

Romero, who represents the 1-Pacman party-list in the House of Representatives, called on the federation to do so during his guest appearance in the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum webcast, Tuesday.

“I will formally ask SBP and Gilas through you, through the PSA Forum, to short-list or to submit to the House five names that can be naturalized,” he said in the session he graced alongside NorthPort governor Erick Arejola.

Romero has been making this suggestion to the SBP since 2019, following the Filipino dribblers’ disappointing showing in the FIBA World Cup that proved to be Andray Blatche’s final tour of duty as its naturalized player.

So far, there are three foreigners on the federation’s radar – namely Angelo Kouame of Ateneo De Manila University, and PBA imports Justin Brownlee of Barangay Ginebra and San Miguel’s Chris McCullough.

Kouame and Brownlee are already candidates for naturalization, as separate bills seeking to grant them Filipino citizenship have already been filed to the Congress and are just waiting to move further.

However, those aforementioned names were not from the SBP except Kouame. House Bill no. 8106 that seeks to naturalize Brownlee was co-authored by Romero along with three other lawmakers back in 2018.

“Actually, ang sinubmit nila just is one name ‘no, si Kouame,” said Romero, who is also the team owner of NorthPort in the PBA. “Because ‘yung si Brownlee, ako nag-naturalize nun.

“Because nung nag-usap kami ni Brownlee, sabi niya, ‘It would be a big honor to represent the Philippines as a naturalized player.’ So with that, sabi ko, ‘Why don’t we make you a naturalized player?'”

Romero then recalled the time when the SBP had both Marcus Douthit and Andray Blatche as its naturalized players, hence why he is batting for them to come up with a pool of foreign players willing to be Filipinos.

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Blatche, formerly of the Brooklyn Nets in the NBA, was the one utilized by then-Gilas head coach Chot Reyes for the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain. Douthit came back to the fold for the Asian Games later that year.

“May Douthit tayo tsaka ‘yung isang malaki [Blatche]. Nagpapalit-palitan lang eh. So ako, why don’t we expand the pool to five names? And from those five names, pitasin natin kung sino ‘yung babagay sa isa’t isa,” he said.

For Romero, it would be ideal for the federation to submit the names of the prospects together to the House so they can process the necessary paperwork and requirements all at the same time.

“The process is the same eh, so bakit hindi na lang natin pagsamahin?” he told the weekly session powered by SMART, San Miguel Corp., Go For Gold, MILO, Amelie Hotel Manila, Braska Restaurant, and PAGCOR.

“From those five names, kailangan ko naman na may point person to help us … Marami kasing requirements with regards to being a naturalized citizen. So kumpletuhin lang nila within three months sana, at hindi one year ‘yung mga paperworks. Maraming papeles kaya mahirap mag-naturalize. But once kumpleto na sa House, madali nang i-move forward.”

Now, Romero hopes that the Samahan will heed to the call. And he suggested as well to the federation, as much as possible, to look for “NBA-caliber players” for their naturalization prospects.

“Sana magawa ng SBP ‘yun. It’s a challenge to them to name five players to be naturalize – hindi lang si Kouame at si Brownlee. Medyo elevate natin to NBA-caliber players.”

Written By

Oftentimes on the sidelines. Forever a student of the game. Morayta-bred.

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