Gone are the days when the Philippine Basketball Association was more lenient in allowing natural players to see action.
Jeff Moore and Dennis Still and, for a while, Chip Engelland were given permission by the PBA to shore up the all-amateur Northern Cement Consolidated, which played as a guest squad in 1984 and 1985.
The NCC was the first local guest squad to win a PBA title in the season-ending conference of 1985 and become the first squad to score a sweep since the best-of-seven finals series was instituted.
But that was 38 years ago. With the changes that happened in the game of basketball, even a handicapping season didn’t work for teams, especially those who are always at the bottom of the standings.
Probably the last handicap that comes to mind was the one given to Welcoat — now known as Rain or Shine — when it was allowed to field one regular import together with Alex Compton.
Compton, as we know, is an American who was born in the Philippines. He, however, was allowed to see action as the other import of the Dragons.
Despite the special concession given to Welcoat, it still didn’t fare well and was ushered to the exit door early.
Naturalized player Marcus Douthit was also allowed to play in 2012 when Air21, the most inferior team at that time, was given exclusive rights to sign him as import for the Commissioner’s Cup.
The PBA, which was then being headed by Chito Salud, was given the power by the PBA board of governors to allow the 6-foot-10 Douthit to reinforce the Express for being the last placers of the previous season.
But Douthit’s successor as naturalized player, Andray Blatche, didn’t have much luck.
A National Basketball Association veteran who represented the country in the 2014 and 2019 FIBA World Cups, the 6-foot-10 Blatche couldn’t make the height limit when his Gilas Pilipinas coach Yeng Guiao tried to recruit him as reinforcement for the 2019 Commissioner’s Cup.
The PBA will be unveiling its season with a shortened Commissioner’s Cup in October.
The height limit for reinforcements is 6-foot-9 which means that familiar players like former Magnolia import Nick Rakocevic and other foreign players who will not pass the measurement will be barred from competing.
Ange Kouame, a naturalized player who was loaned to Rain or Shine for the William Jones Cup on 12 August, will not be eligible to play for being measured above the prescribed height limit.
The Ivorian-Filipino has been representing the country since 2021 following a stellar career at Ateneo de Manila University in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines, is 6-foot-10.
Unless the PBA makes an exemption, then Kouame will have a chance to play.
And it’s clear for Rain or Shine that Kouame’s commitment is only for the Jones Cup, where he will not just represent the club, but also the PBA and the country as well.