Yeng Guiao knows all too well the importance of a potent naturalized player when it comes to competing on the world stage.
The former Gilas Pilipinas tactician is suggesting that Congress naturalize more than one foreign player in preparation for the country’s campaign in the 2023 FIBA World Cup, which the Philippines will host together with Japan and Indonesia.
As a former representative of Pampanga’s first district, he knows it is possible to naturalize the likes of Americans Justin Brownlee and Chris McCullough, and Ivorian Angelo Kouame.
“Wala ako sa politics ngayon, but I can make some recommendations. You know, you don’t need to naturalize just one. Under the law, you can naturalize several (foreigners). Let’s say we can three, four, or five players,” said Guiao during Saturday’s Hoop Coaches International Webinar which is presented by Blackwater.
As a matter of fact, all three have expressed their love for the country and their interest in playing for Gilas.
Guiao himself saw how hard it is to have just one naturalized player at the national team’s disposal.
During the fourth window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, Guiao alternated 6-foot-8 Fil-German Christian Standhardinger and 6-foot-1 Fil-Am Stanley Pringle as naturalized players. It resulted in two losses for the Philippines.
He would then bring back Andray Blatche for the final window, which resulted in wins and a ticket to the Big Dance.
“Hindi kailangan isa lang. Kasi ngayon parang isa lang choice natin. ‘Pag wala si Andray Blatche, wala na tayo.
“Hindi na tayo makabalik kay [Marcus] Douthit. So I guess it is also giving us more options and, at the same time, having control of our naturalized player situation. Mag-naturalize na tayo ng marami,” he explained.
“Hindi naman kailangan ng isa diyan. When I say three or four, sama na natin diyan si Justin Brownlee, si Ange Kouame, sama na natin si Chris McCollough… Kung sino man kailangan natin,” he continued.
Speaking of Blatche, though the relationship between Guiao and him did not start well, the multi-titled tactician had nothing but praise for the former NBA pro.
Despite being far from the shape he was in back in 2014, Blatche — who averaged 15.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 3.4 assists during the 2019 edition of the tournament in China — still gave it his all, according to Guiao.
“When you play at the world level, si Andray is our biggest guy there. Of course, nandiyan si June Mar [Fajardo], Greg [Slaughter], at Japeth [Aguilar] but he is our anchor in the frontline. He needs to be in the best shape and play his best game,” said Guiao, as Gilas went winless during that campaign.
“The problem is the big man on the other side is as good or better than he is. Sometimes talaga, maganda ‘yung nilalaro ni Andray and what happens is, he is the one getting double teams. A lot of bumps and pushes, hard fouls! He has to take those abuse from the other teams because they know that we rely a lot on him,” he furthered.
“If Andray Blatche is in good shape, the national team plays a lot better. But in the World Cup, he could have been better. I don’t take anything away from him. He gave it his all at that point. And he carried us on his shoulders, but the other teams were just too big for us.”
And so for the 2023 edition of the tournament, Guiao really sees the need to have options.
This way, if one of the candidates picks up an injury or doesn’t want to play, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas will not be at the mercy of just one player.
“Let’s not put our eggs in one basket kasi sa congress puwede naman nila gawin ‘yun, and a lot of other countries are doing that.”