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SBP says Bennie Boatwright open for PBA return as naturalization talks now initiated

The SBP said that Bennie Boatwright is open for a PBA return as they begin the road to naturalization. Dennis Acosta (file photo) 
By Ivan Saldajeno

PASAY—The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas said on Monday that Bennie Boatwright looks to play again very soon in the PBA as the federation confirmed that it has begun talking to him about naturalization.

In a statement, the SBP said that the 6-foot-10 forward, who led San Miguel to the PBA Commissioner's Cup title last month, is willing to return to the Philippines once his stint with the Shanxi Loongs in the CBA is done.

"While he is currently playing in China, the former USC Trojan has expressed his desire and willingness to return to the PBA as soon as possible since he has developed a strong connection with the Philippines," the SBP said.

Boatwright came on as Ivan Aska's replacement as the Beermen's import on Christmas night last year, and he took the PBA in general by storm, leading the league last conference with 40.3 points per game.

With Boatwright in its fold, SMB went on a roll to close out the Commissioner's Cup, only losing two games both to Magnolia in Games 3 and 4 of the finals that forced a 2-all tie in their best-of-seven series before winning Games 5 and 6 to finally claim the title.

"Boatwright played for the San Miguel Beermen in the recent PBA Commissioner’s Cup where he demonstrated he was a good fit for Philippine basketball as he led his ball club to the championship with his overall leadership and talent," the SBP further said.

Once his commitment has been secured, Boatwright will now be part of Gilas' naturalized player pool that also includes Justin Brownlee, Ange Kouame, and Jordan Clarkson.

"It is SBP’s philosophy to maintain a pool of naturalized players to provide the Philippine National Team with options for specific tournaments. The presence of a pool also ensures the availability of naturalized players in case of injuries, scheduling issues, and other unforeseen incidents," the federation further said.

"Boatwright is currently 27 years of age, making him a solid choice for naturalization as the SBP seeks to secure the future of the national team alongside working on its current goals."

The SBP reiterated, in conclusion, that Brownlee remains the top priority for Gilas at the moment as they look to clinch a spot in the Paris Olympics through the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments in Riga this July.

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