Gilas plea for Clarkson and Co. draws hope from Fiba ruling on Jawato

November 20 ------ FIBA allowing Brandon Jawato to suit up for Indonesia offers a glimmer of hope for Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) in its longstanding quest to have a number of Fil-foreign talents be recognized as locals for Gilas Pilipinas.

SBP president Al Panlilio said the federation continues to hold dialogues with Fiba in its bid to scrap its rule requiring athletes to secure their passports by the age of 16 before being eligible to suit up for their respective national teams. "That has been an issue we've been raising to Fiba," said Panlilio as the SBP stands at the forefront of proposing reforms on those eligibility rules. "We have to have a dialogue with Fiba on what actually happened there and continue to push our case to Fiba."

Jawato, an Indonesian-American forward granted citizenship by Indonesia's Congress back in October, was cleared by Fiba to play for the Garuda as local in the upcoming November window of the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers. The ruling would allow coach Rajko Toroman to pair him with naturalized player Lester Prosper in Indonesia's games in the Manama bubble in Bahrain. According to Indonesia-based publications, Fiba, in clearing Jawato, considered "several factors that underline this decision, including the status of Jawato's father, who is from Indonesia, his participation in a professional national competition, and the length of time he has lived in Indonesia since 2015."

It's a ruling that could benefit more nations including the Philippines, as proponents like Panlilio continue to ask for the scrapping of the controversial eligibility ruling. Scrapping the rule will open the doors for Fil-foreigners like Christian Standhardinger, Stanley Pringle, and Mo Tautuaa, who are all categorized as naturalized players in Fiba standards despite having proof of their Filipino citizenship.

Players like Jordan Clarkson and Chris Ross, meanwhile, were able to don the national team colors as the Asian Games and the Southeast Asian Games are both not under the jurisdiction of Fiba, although competition rules depend on the respective host's organizing committees. "These players are truly Filipinos, and it's just this rule of not having the passport by the age 16 that has been the impediment with that regulation," argued Panlilio. It's a cause the SBP definitely believes is worth fighting for, but the soft-spoken executive knows that it's still the Fiba Central Board which will have the last say on the matter.