BOCAUE – The results of the sixth and final window of the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers offered more questions than answers especially when it comes to who will be playing as the naturalized player for the 2023 World Cup.
NBA star Jordan Clarkson has been the leading choice for the position ever since he played for the national team in the fourth qualifying window in August but resident Ginebra import Justin Brownlee has made a good account of himself in the sixth and final window of the qualifiers.
Comments from Lebanon coach Jad El Hajj saying that the Brownlee-led Gilas played more as a team than the one with Clarkson in tow further fanned the already burning question that is waiting for an answer.
Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes said nothing is cast in stone when it comes to the naturalized player post although Brownlee has been made aware of what his role to the national team and accepted it, even becoming as a backup to the Utah Jazz guard.
“First of all, with Justin’s performance, there’s little to say. You all saw how effective Justin is and how well he played. As regards who the naturalized player is, Justin has always known that he makes himself available for whatever is required by the team. If we need someone to play in specific tournaments, if we need someone to play as a back-up for Jordan Clarkson, he’s willing to play that role,” said Reyes at the end of Gilas’ 91-90 loss against Jordan.
Brownlee filled in the role nicely in the sixth window of the qualifiers, finishing with 18 points in Gilas’ win against Lebanon before exploding for 41 in a losing effort versus Jordan for a 1-1 record with Gilas.
Clarkson, on the other hand, averaged 25 points, 6.5 assists and 5.5 rebounds and also had a 1-1 record with the national team during the fourth window.
“Having said that, there are no shoo-ins in the team. There’s no one with a lock, and that goes for everyone. So right now, there are no shoo-ins. That goes for all the local players, and even the naturalized players,” said Reyes who, aside from Brownlee and Clarkson, also has Ange Kouame as another option for the role.
“We have another naturalized player, right? We have Ange Kouame, and we’re not ruling out the possibility of even going out and looking for another 6-10, 6-11 guy. With all the uncertainty surrounding the Kai Sotto situation, if he’s not gonna make himself available, then I think we have to think about that as well,” added the veteran coach.
Reyes, however, stressed that the team for the World Cup would not be determined until the national team goes full scale with its preparation and players to be selected in the final lineup will be taken from those who participated in the buildup. — Reynald I. Magallon
Credit belongs to : www.mb.com.ph