The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas is seriously looking at Cameron Oliver and Justin Brownlee to serve as the country’s naturalized players for major international events next year.
During the organizational meeting of the Senate Committee on Sports on Monday, 12 September Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes revealed that Oliver and Brownlee are already in the process of applying for naturalization.
Although Brownlee has been applying for naturalization since 2018, Oliver is still in the process of completing his documents that will make him eligible to suit up for Gilas Pilipinas.
Reyes said they need at least two more candidates for naturalization as the demanding schedule of the National Basketball Association could prompt Jordan Clarkson to miss crucial international games.
“We have two names. At a time when Jordan Clarkson would not be available, we still want to fight with a strong team,” said Reyes, who attended the session presided by Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go via video call.
“Justin Brownlee and Cameron Oliver. They said they are willing.”
Brownlee is no stranger to Philippine basketball.
He has been campaigning for Barangay Ginebra San Miguel since 2016 and won five PBA titles en route to clinching the Best Import honors in the 2018 Commissioner’s Cup and 2021 Governors’ Cup.
He will power the Kings anew in the Commissioner’s Cup that starts on 21 September.
On the other hand, it’s going to be Oliver’s first tour of duty in the Philippines.
He is a 6-foot-6 banger who campaigned for the Houston Rockets and the Atlanta Hawks as well as in Australia, Israel, and Spain before signing with TNT Tropang Giga in the upcoming midseason tourney.
In the past, the SBP had already endorsed the naturalization of three players in Marcus Douthit, Andray Blatche and Ange Kouame.
Douthit and Blatche had already campaigned for Gilas before while Kouame is already tied up with his commitments with Ateneo de Manila University.
Sen. Joel Villanueva said the SBP should have options to keep Gilas Pilipinas competitive in the event that Clarkson or Kouame will not be available to play.
“I’m speaking on behalf of so many basketball aficionados here in the Senate, that we will move heaven and earth to support our national basketball team,” he said.
“Hopefully, we will be able to know — although it’s hard to say — who will replace Clarkson, a Sixth Man of the Year of the National Basketball Association?”
Meanwhile, Reyes shared some positive developments on the preparation of the national basketball team for the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers’ fifth window in November 2023.
“Good things are happening now because the PBA, and NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) are all on this. They gave us an assurance that all the players we will choose for the fifth and sixth windows will be allowed to play,” he said.
Reyes stressed that the availability of the players is not only the issue that needs to be addressed but also their practice, which he said involves the preparation time.
He said Gilas Pilipinas will start practicing for the 2023 FIBA which will take place in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia, with the final stretch to follow in the country’s capital city of Manila.
“We will start our Monday’s only practices next week, at least once a week. When November comes practice will be more frequent. It’s not ideal but it is a lot better than before,” he said.
“What we are really eyeing is to have strict training in the runup in August next year, it is the most important.”