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Bennie Boatwright set to become new Gilas naturalization prospect

Bennie Boatwright is in line to be part of Gilas' naturalized player pool. Dennis Acosta (file photo) 
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—Bennie Boatwright could be the next in line to become a naturalized player for Gilas Pilipinas.

According to reports from Spin.PH and Philippine Daily Inquirer on Saturday, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas is set to begin the naturalization process of the 6-foot-10 power forward, who led San Miguel to the PBA Commissioner's Cup championship last month.

While Justin Brownlee will remain the main naturalized guy for Gilas for the foreseeable future, the plan is to have Boatwright, currently with the Shanxi Loongs of the CBA, as an additional import for the Southeast Asian Games and the Asian Games.

Unlike FIBA-sanctioned tournaments, the SEA Games and the Asian Games have loose rules on player eligibility, virtually allowing national teams to have multiple naturalized players as long as they have already acquired domestic passports for the countries they represent.

Last year's Asian Games saw Brownlee and Ange Kouame bolstering Gilas to the Philippines' first men's basketball gold since 1962, mainly highlighted by Brownlee's clutch threes that eliminated host country China in the semifinals.

One additional factor that could be beneficial down the line for Gilas, though, is that Boatwright is just 27 years old, which could make him a prime candidate to become the national team's foreign reinforcement on the road to the 2027 FIBA World Cup and possibly the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics along with the 26-year-old Kouame and 31-year-old Jordan Clarkson.

However, at the moment, the 35-year-old Brownlee remains the top priority for coach Tim Cone's Gilas squad.

Follow him on X: @IvanSaldajeno

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