PARIS—“With a beautiful scenario.”
That was the way Ricky Vargas, the PBA chair, described how the Gilas Pilipinas debate—among netizens, on who its naturalized player should be for the coming Fiba World Cup—could be solved in the end.
The TNT board rep in the PBA is aware of the heated online discussion on who between Jordan Clarkson and Justin Brownlee should be tapped for the global showcase. He also had a ready answer and explanation on how it could be done.
“Why not have both of them play?” Vargas asked a small group of sports scribes from the Philippines before he and the others in the PBA leadership started their annual planning session in this glitzy French capital.
Vargas said that it would be an idea he would pitch to the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, with Clarkson to play as the naturalized player and Brownlee to be listed as a local.
“There’s no going around that Jordan (Clarkson) would be seen as a naturalized player,” Vargas explained. “But Justin (Brownlee) is as Filipino as anyone could get.
“When did Justin come to us (in the Philippines), was it 2016?” Vargas asked. “He’s already got residency, and I understand that his sons are staying with him in the Philippines for the longest time.
“And that makes me believe that he is as Filipino as us.”
While there’s no doubt that Clarkson—a legitimate NBA star—is also Filipino and is the best naturalized player available for the country, his lack of time staying in the land of his mother’s birth will not qualify him as a local.
“The Fiba knows that,” Vargas said. “It’s understandable that he can’t stay (in the Philippines) because of his NBA commitment, which brings us to Brownlee as a local.”
Brownlee was naturalized by law earlier this year in time for the final window of the Fiba Asia World Cup qualifying. He dazzled fans, coaches, teammates and everyone else during the last Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia where the Philippines reclaimed the cage gold.
Not just because of what he did on that linoleum floor inside the furnace-like venue in Phnom Pehn.
“Did you see how he played?” Vargas asked the scribes. “I’ve never seen that from any of our naturalized players before, especially when we lost (in pool play to Cambodia).
“The emotion he played with was very evident,” Vargas said. “When we got back at Cambodia to win the gold, you can see the joy in his was very genuine. I’m not saying that Clarkson and those (naturalized players before him) aren’t like that.
“But his is just on another level.”
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