House panel OKs NBA’s Blatche naturalization

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

THE House committee on justice on Wednesday approved the naturalization of Brooklyn Nets center Andray Blatche as part of national team's preparation for the upcoming FIBA Basketball World Cup, which will be held in Spain in August.

During the hearing, Ako Bicol party-list Representative Rodel Batocabe moved to approve House Bill 3784 filed by Antipolo City Representative Robbie Puno that seeks the naturalization of the six-foot-11 cager of the National Basketball Association (NBA).

The measure was seconded by Northern Samar Representative Emil Ong despite the opposition of 1-BAP party-list Representative Silvestre Bello III.

"We need to rush the passage of the bill to boost our campaign in FIBA World Cup," Batocabe said.

He said the measure is set for second reading approval next week, before Congress goes on recess by March 15.

Bello opposed the expeditious approval of the measure, saying the panel should require the personal appearance of Blatche to personally ask him if he is willing to be naturalized as Filipino citizen.

FIBA, the overall governing body of basketball worldwide allows each participating country to field one naturalized player in the competition, and SMART-Gilas Pilipinas, the country's national pool backed by businessman Manuel Pangilinan, has until June 30 to submit its final official roster of players.

The 27-year-old Blatche, also previously played with the Washington Wizards for eight years before signing with the Nets.

The nine-year NBA veteran is currently ranked 13th in the NBA in terms of player efficiency rating (21.9) and in offensive rebounding percentage (12.2 RPG).

Meanwhile, Batocabe said that the panel has not approved the naturalization of injured Denver Nuggets center Javale Mcgee since he was no longer interested to play for the Philippines.

"He (McGee) was not interested anymore that's why the other bill seeking his naturalization was not approved," Batocabe said.

The country has earned the rights to play in this year's basketball world cup after bagging second place in last year’s FIBA Asian Championship which served as a tournament qualifier after defeating old-time rival South Korea during their blockbuster semi-finals game.

Aside from Blatche, national team head coach Chot Reyes has recently added five additional players from the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) namely center Beau Belga and shooting guard Paul Lee of Rain or Shine Elasto-Painters; San Miguel Beermen's Marcio Lassiter; Meralco star-guard Jared Dillinger and Barangay Ginebra’s six-foot-11 tower Greg Slaughter. (Sunnex)

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