Choice of naturalized player in 2023 FIBA World Cup to depend on Kai Sotto, AJ Edu, says Yeng Guiao

Former Gilas coach also bats for pool of reinforcements   
The choice of naturalized player in the 2023 FIBA World Cup will depend on the development of 7-foot-2 local Kai Sotto and Cypriot-born Filino AJ Edu, said former Gilas Pilipinas coach Yeng Guiao. (FIBA Images)

If it is possible to naturalize as many as five foreign players, the better it would be for Gilas Pilipinas.

Former national team coach Yeng Guiao said having a pool of naturalized players will benefit Gilas with multiple options on who to play starting next year on the way to the 2023 FIBA World Cup here.

“Actually sa akin simple yung solusyon, you don’t need to choose one, hindi kailangan na kapag nag-naturalize ka e tingi-tingi like the situation we had with Andray Blatche,” said Guiao.

“Now if you have a choice, even from a bargaining point of view, halimbawa in disciplining a player, kapag alam nya na di pwede magloko-loko kasi papalitan siya, I think that’s a better option.”

“To me I think that’s the logical step that we can take. We give ourselves more leeway, giving ourselves more options. Kung puwede naman gawing lima… present and future,” added Guiao, mentor of the NLEX Road Warriors in the PBA.

Former Gilas Pilipinas coach and current NLEX Road Warriors coach Yeng Guiao (MB File Photo)

Since the formation of the Gilas Pilipinas program in 2009, two players were naturalized by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas one after the other – Marcus Douthit and then Blatche.

Douthit played for the national team from 2010 to 2013, the year the Filipinos earned a spot to the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain after it won the silver medal in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship here.

In Spain, Blatche took over as his stint with Gilas also saw him compete in the 2015 Asian Championship in Changsha, China, the FIBA OQT in 2016 and the 2019 World Cup in China.

Guiao coached the national team in the previous World Cup, Blatche’s last stint with the national team.

Three players are being considered for naturalization, according to SBP official Ryan Gregorio – Angelo Kouame of Ateneo, former San Miguel Beer import Chris McCullough and Barangay Ginebra’s Justin Brownlee.

“Yun ang mga nag-signify that they want to play for Gilas kaya sila matunog ngayon (for naturalization),” said Gregorio.

 Guiao said the type of player to be naturalized – either a center like Blatche and Douthit or a small forward – would depend on the development of 7-foot-2 local Kai Sotto and Cypriot-born Filipino A.J. Edu.

The 18-year-old Sotto recently signed with the NBA G-League, while the 6-foot-10 Edu, 20, is a member of the Toledo Rockets in the US NCAA.

“Baka naman by that time 2023, sila na yung domineering big men. So depende sa improvement ni Kai and Edu. If medyo kulang pa sila kuha tayo ng malaki pero kung kaya nila, baka ang kailangan tulong na sa labas, or a power forward, or even a point (guard),” said Guiao.

“It would really depend, for the sake of discussion, on how good is Kai, and also Edu, by 2023.”