By JONAS TERRADO
PBA Chairman Ricky Vargas believes that naturalized players should be given the opportunity to play as locals.
Vargas made this sentiment weeks after former Gilas Pilipinas mainstays Andray Blatche and Marcus Douthit expressed their desire to play in the league.
Though agreeing with PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial that the proposal is something that may not be entertained in the foreseeable future, Vargas also said that the league should also be open-minded.
“Sa ngayon, the door is closed pa on them to become local players in the pro league. We have not looked at it favorably at the moment,” Vargas said during his appearance in the program Power and Play.
“But our naturalized players have served the country, and they should at least be given the chance to play with us. I think as imports, pwede, but this is the changing landscape of basketball. If they can play for the national team, why can’t they play in the PBA.
Only Douthit, Blatche and Ange Kouame have secured Filipino citizenship which allowed them to play for the Philippines in FIBA competitions like the World Cup and the Asia Cup.
But only Douthit has gotten a chance to play in the league, albeit as an import back in the 2012 Commissioner’s Cup for Air21 and 2015 Commissioner’s Cup for Blackwater.
NLEX tried twice to bring in Blatche as an import in 2014 and 2019, but the plan never materialized.
The discussion regarding naturalized players in the PBA began during the holiday season when Blatche replied to a tweet by the league, saying that he wants to come over and play.
That also prompted Douthit to respond and asked when the PBA will allow naturalized cagers to suit up as locals.
But current rules not only prohibit them from being local players, they also must meet height requirements the PBA implements for its reinforced tournaments.
The Commissioner’s Cup allows imports with a maximum height of 6-foot-10 while this season’s Governors’ Cup, currently on pause due to the COVID-19 surge, permitted foreign players standing 6-foot-6 and below.
Blatche and Douthit are both 6-foot-11 while Kouame is eligible for the Commissioner’s Cup at 6-foot-10.