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Andray Blatche, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson listed in Gilas' initial pool for Asian Games

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was apparently considered for Gilas naturalization before joining Jordan. Cesca Rampas (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

QUEZON CITY--When problems suddenly arose on the eligibility of Calvin Abueva and Jason Perkins to play for Gilas Pilipinas in the Asian Games, one question the fans were asking was: "Where is the full Gilas pool?"

Abueva and Perkins were reportedly denied to be included in Gilas' Asian Games team because they were never part of the full pool, which consists of 60 players in the professional and even amateur ranks.

Dugout Philippines obtained a copy of the initial Gilas pool on Tuesday while a press conference was ongoing at the PBA office where interim coach Tim Cone announced that Abueva and Perkins could be replaced in the final lineup.

As expected, the entire Gilas pool for the FIBA World Cup, including Utah Jazz star Jordan Clarkson, was in the Asian Games pool.

Clarkson debuted for Gilas in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia but could not be available this year because it coincides with his club's NBA preseason training camp.

However, some other names mentioned in the pool include Andray Blatche and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

Blatche last played for Gilas in 2018, being part of the team that played Australia in the infamous FIBA World Cup Qualifiers game at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue that ended in a brawl.

Based on recent knowledge, Blatche last suited up for Tianjin in the CBA in 2019, and the 37-year-old big man has been out of the limelight for the past four years.

Meanwhile, Hollis-Jefferson is listed with two asterisks after him, symbolizing that he was being lobbied for naturalization.

It somehow hints that the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas considered making the TNT import a Filipino citizen for future FIBA events before he decided to commit to Jordan.

With the huge pop he got at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay for showing heart in the FIBA World Cup, Hollis-Jefferson suiting up for Gilas could now be considered a what-if.

Former NBA lottery pick also in Gilas pool

Another name being considered for naturalization by the SBP based on its Asian Games pool is Onyeka Okongwu.

The sixth pick of the 2020 NBA Draft currently plays for the Atlanta Hawks mainly as backup to Clint Capela.

Last season, Okonwgu averaged close to 10 points while shooting just below 64 percent from the field, a little above seven rebounds, and one block in 23 minutes per game.

Born to Nigerian parents in Los Angeles, Okongwu, who was once teammates with the Ball Brothers at Chino Hills, is also being considered to play for Nigeria in FIBA events.

Follow him on X: @IvanSaldajeno

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