Sports

NBA player granted Filipino citizenship, will play for Gilas team

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MANILA -- The Senate on Monday, May 26 approved the naturalization of American basketball player Andray Blatche on third and final reading.

 

The Senate Bill No. 2108, proposed by Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, garnered a unanimous vote as Blatche’s Filipino citizenship now awaits the approval of the Office of the President for the chief executive’s signature.

“Blatche is possibly the best center from the NBA that we can get who is willing to shun more lucrative offers now and in the future just to be part of our national team,” said Angara in a statement.

The six-foot-11 Blatche plays a vital role for the Brooklyn Nets with a career average of 10.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and almost a block per game.

“This was indeed a total team effort on the part of the Senate. Credits are due to both the majority and minority blocs for supporting this measure, which to my mind, is the Senate’s own way of contributing to the cause of our basketball team,” Angara said.

Granting the naturalization of Blatche is a big boost for Gilas Pilipinas, which is set to compete in the Fiba World Cup in Spain this August and the Asian Games in September.

“Having naturalized players is the rule in international competitions rather than the exception. It’s very accepted. We are just taking advantage of the rule,” said Angara, who chairs the committee on games, amusement and sports.

Blatche became the latest foreign basketball player to earn a Filipino citizenship after Americans Arthur “Chip” Engelland, Jeff Moore and Dennis Still were naturalized in the 1980s to help the Philippine men’s basketball team to win the Asian Basketball Confederation (now FIBA Asia Championship) crown in 1985 and Marcus Douthit in 2011.

“We took a leap of faith when we naturalized Marcus Douthit, and that leap of faith paid dividends. We are hoping this would be a similar case with Andray Blatche,” Angara said.

Douthit led the Philippine team to a silver-medal finish in the 2013 Fiba Asia Championship that also booked the squad a trip to the Basketball World Cup in Spain.

 

“This is the first time in 40 years that the Philippine team will play once again in the world basketball tournament. We are number 34 in the world basketball ranking and yet, we made it to the FIBA World Championships, which is the top 24 teams in the world. Given this rare opportunity, we should do everything we can to give our national team the best representation and the best chance to win,” Angara added. Inquirer.net

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