Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio wants the Southeast Asian Games Federation Council to review its eligibility rules following the influx of naturalized players in the 32nd SEA Games last week.
In a message to Daily Tribune, Panlilio said the SEA Games Federation Council should follow the guidelines set by the International Basketball Federation when it comes to athletes who were born abroad.
Based on the FIBA rules, athletes who were born abroad must obtain the passport they wish to represent before turning 16. Otherwise, they will be treated as naturalized players in FIBA-sanctioned tournaments.
The SEA Games Federation Council, meanwhile, has a more relaxed set of eligibility rules.
In the SEA Games, anybody who holds a passport of the country they want to represent are free to compete.
That’s why during the biennial meet, the host country jacked up its roster with athletes who were born outside Cambodia, especially in the basketball events.
Cambodia, which is not known to be a basketball powerhouse, paraded five United States-born athletes in Dwayne Morgan, Sayeedalkabir Pridgett, Darrinray Dorsey, Brandon Jerome Peterson and Darius Henderson.
In the 3×3 women’s basketball event, Cambodia was represented by a team composed of naturalized players in Brittany Binkins, Mariah Cooks, Kimberly Hanlon and Meighan Simmons.
Panlilio, also the 1st vice president of the Philippine Olympic Committee, said it is time for the SEA Games to limit the naturalized players.
“The SEA Games eligibility rules should be addressed,” Panlilio said in a Viber message on Sunday.
“We can’t have a repeat of what happened in Cambodia. Ideally, we should follow the FIBA eligibility rules to preserve the sanctity of the sport. Moreover, it protects your grassroots program.”
With an army of naturalized players on the roster, Cambodia shocked the Philippines in the preliminaries of the men’s basketball event.
But the Filipinos, behind naturalized player Justin Bronwlee, bounced back and humbled the Cambodians in the gold medal match.
Panlilio said he is proud of what Gilas have accomplished despite the very tough and challenging condition that includes having substandard flooring, oven-hot venue and outdoor training facility.
“Gilas showed that the pride of fighting for our country is stronger than any other motivation. They played through substandard conditions in the court under the sweltering heat and overcame bumps and bruises to make us all proud,” Panlilio said.
“This is a reminder to our country and the Southeast Asian region that upholding the values of fair play, sportsmanship and love for country triumphs all.”
Panlilio also agreed with Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes’ opinion that the SEA Games should be represented by young players, similar to what they did in the past in which collegiate stars represent the country.
“I agree with Coach Chot on his observation,” Panlilio added.
Like Panlilio, SBP chairman emeritus Manny Pangilinan was also happy to be proven wrong by Reyes and the national squad.
“I’m very happy to be proven wrong,” said Pangilinan, who blasted the team following its dismal performance against the Cambodians in the group stage.
“So, he (Reyes) texted me back, saying it’s all part of the job. So that was a gracious reply to me. That victory gave him a tremendous feeling of relief.”