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SBP works on Clarkson naturalization

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) is now mapping out its plans for the naturalization process of National Basketball Association (NBA) stalwart Jordan Clarkson.

Following the general assembly between SBP and its stakeholders last Monday, Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) commissioner Willie Marcial said the federation is now keen on granting the Utah Jazz swingman a Filipino citizenship that would allow him to don the national colors in major international tournaments.

Marcial said SBP chairman Sen. Sonny Angara and Antipolo representative Robbie Puno are planning to file separate bills to kick off the naturalization process just in time for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup that the country will host next year.

Aside from Clarkson and mainstay Ange Kouame, the federation is looking for two more foreigners to complete its four-man pool of naturalized players.

“Cong. Puno and Sen. Angara will file bills for the naturalization (of Clarkson),” Marcial said in an interview late Tuesday.

“We said that maybe we can have three to four naturalized (players) and look for other wingmen or centers. That’s the plan of the SBP.”

Although the naturalization process is already underway, the federation is still trying to appeal its case about Clarkson’s eligibility to play as a local in FIBA tourneys since he obtained his Philippine passport before turning 16 years old.

In fact, he was able to see action and even served as the country’s flagbearer in the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta in 2018.

Clarkson is expected to see action in the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers from 25 to 29 August, but he will be tagged as a naturalized player in the roster since FIBA has a different set of eligibility rules with that of the Olympic Council of Asia – the main organizer of the Asian Games.

Should the process push through, Clarkson, the 2021 NBA Sixth Man of the Year, will join Kouame as the country’s naturalized players.

Kouame, a 6-foot-10 slotman from Ivory Coast, was granted Filipino citizenship last year and was able to play with Gilas in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers and FIBA Olympic Qualifying tournament.

Clarkson will be the national team’s fourth overall naturalized player, joining the likes of Marcus Douthit and former NBA cager Andray Blatche.

Marcial noted that the federation is still looking for other possible candidates to join the pool.

“That’s the plan, we want to have at least four so that we can have many choices. If someone is injured, then others can play for him,” Marcial said.

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