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Goodbye, Blatche, hello, Greg Smith?

Gilas Pilipinas is exploring the possibility of having Blackwater import Greg Smith as a naturalized player for future international competitions after meeting with the former NBA player yesterday.

Spin.ph reported that Smith met with Gilas team manager Butch Antonio to discuss the possibility, despite having Andray Blatche as its naturalized player since the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

Blackwater owner Dioceldo Sy, who accompanied Smith in the said meeting, told the same sports website of his proposal to have the one-time Houston Rockets backup forward to be tried out for one year before deciding on whether make him the permanent man for the role.

“It was a very good meeting. Everything was positive,” Sy said. “That’s what I laid down on the table, for the national team to play Greg for a year and decide whether he stays or not.”

Gilas’ interest with Smith came after national coach Chot Reyes expressed his dismay on the late arrival of Blatche for next week’s SEABA Championship at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Reyes mulled the prospect of replacing Blatche if the Xinjiang Flying Tigers standout fails to join the squad.

Blatche was supposed to be in the country last Monday, and subsequently attend the Gilas practice session a day later, but had to rebook his flight because of the christening of his newborn son.

The 6-foot-11 player also played for Gilas in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha, China and the 2016 Olympic Qualifying Tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The plan to tap a new naturalized player was seconded by NLEX coach and former national team mentor Yeng Guiao, suggesting that such practice is also being practiced by rival nations.

“Ang lifetime naman ng naturalized player is 3-5 years, tingin ko, and si Blatche, three years na naglalaro, so ibig sabihin niyan kailangan nagrerecruit na ng panibago because the other countries are also constantly recruiting naturalized players,” Guiao said.

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