JC, JB together unlikely

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

It will come down to a choice between Jordan Clarkson and Justin Brownlee as Gilasnaturalized player for the FIBA World Cup this year. PBA chairman and SBP vice president Ricky Vargas recently mused that maybe, they could play together if FIBA agrees to recognize Brownlee as a local because of his seven-year residence in the Philippines. Brownlee, however, has no Filipino lineage. But FIBA has classified foreign-born players as locals for their adopted countries by exception if theyve established long years of residence. Examples are Greg Slaughter and South Sudan-born Thon Maker of Australia.

Clarkson has Filipino heritage but was beyond 16 when he got his Philippine passport. FIBA has ruled that Clarkson may only play for the Philippines as a naturalized import despite his bloodline because he has hardly lived in the country. SBP appealed Clarksons case to FIBA and provided proof that his relatives reside in the Philippines, specifically in Pampanga. But FIBA stood by its rules.

For Brownlee to be recognized as a local is a shot in the dark. Vargas said theres no harm in trying and the worst that can happen is the request is turned down by FIBA. Chris Newsomes case was brought up to FIBA as a foreign-born player with Filipino blood and long years of residence. The fact that Newsome played college ball at Ateneo and has played in the PBA since graduation was a crucial point. FIBA agreed to classify Newsome as a local.

In SBPs 21-man pool for the FIBA World Cup, there are three naturalized playersClarkson, Brownlee and Ange Kouame. Brownlee and Kouame are expected to join Gilas in the Europe camp from June 22 to July 10. Clarkson has committed to be with Gilas for six weeks, including 17 days during the World Cup from Aug. 25 to Sept. 10. Working backwards, it means Clarkson will report to camp on July 31 in time for three friendlies in China on Aug. 2-6. Gilas will play with the national teams of Iran, Lebanon and Senegal in China. While Iran and Lebanon are seeing action in the FIBA World Cup, Senegal isnt.

If Clarkson is a lock for Gilasfinal 12, Brownlee and Kouame will serve as practice players and insurance policies in case of injuries. Since Clarkson wont be available for the Asian Games on Sept. 23-Oct. 8 in Hangzhou, China, the spot for a naturalized player will go to either Brownlee or Kouame in the Gilas roster. If the Asian Games eligibility rules follow what were applied in the previous edition in 2018, the Philippines will be able to play one naturalized player and unlimited Fil-foreigners with passports.

Choosing between Clarkson and Brownlee is tough. Clarkson is highly respected as an NBA star and on the floor, his presence is commanding. On the technical side, Clarksons ability to play point guard is an asset because of his versatility. Brownlee knows Philippine-style basketball and is familiar with every player in the Gilas pool. Chemistry isnt an issue with Brownlee. Hes a natural three but in the past PBA Commissioners Cups where the import height limit was under 6-10, Brownlee proved he can hold his own against bigger players at the five or four position. The decision will hinge on the players surrounding either Clarkson or Brownlee as to whom they complement the most.

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