Stanley Pringle made sure Asia took notice.
After a stint with the national team in the FIBA 3×3 World Cup last June, the star point guard of NorthPort Batang Pier finally donned the Philippine tri-colors for the traditional 5-on-5 game in an international basketball competition.
In his Asian Games debut against Kazakhstan last Thursday, Pringle delivered as expected and as advertised for the new-look Gilas Pilipinas. In 22 minutes of action, Pringle led all scorers with 18 points in the Philippines’ 96-59 romp over the Kazakhs in Group D preliminaries.
Always in the discussions for inclusion in previous Gilas Pilipinas lineups, a wrinkle in the FIBA rulebook prohibits the 6-foot-1 playmaker from suiting up for the national squad on a regular basis. But it was a welcome sight for Filipino basketball fans to see Pringle strut his stuff in a national team uniform.
For a number of FIBA-level and international competitions in the past, it was another speedy point guard in the familiar number 7 jersey who ran the show for Gilas Pilipinas.
Just over a month ago, manning the point guard spot for the Philippines was Jayson Castro. Aside from being known in basketball circles as “The Blur”, Castro was previously hailed as “The Best Point Guard in Asia”.
Are we seeing the baton passed by Gilas’ resident point guard to an heir apparent? Castro initially announced his “retirement” from the national team, only to be recalled for duty by the Gilas basketball program headed by coach Chot Reyes. A FIBA Asia Cup all-tournament member in 2013 and 2015, Castro has had a number of injuries from his stints with Gilas Pilipinas and with the TNT KaTropa in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
Pringle would have been a deserving, and willing, alternate for Castro in FIBA tournaments.
But unless the international basketball-governing body revises its eligibility rules, Pringle may only be limited to stints in the Asian Games, Southeast Asian Games or other non-FIBA sanctioned events. Acquiring his Philippine passport only after the age of 16, Pringle is classified as a naturalized player for the national team. It is the same predicament that besets Fil-German center Christian Standhardinger, who is also recognized by FIBA as a naturalized player.
Pringle’s talent is unquestionable. The FIBA 3×3 World Cup held in Bocaue, Bulacan was literally his playground and a showcase of his skills in the international level. In the revolutionary three-a-side version of basketball, the 6-foot-1 guard out of San Diego shrugged off the physicality to display his skills only seen in the professional ranks.
In the PBA, Pringle has definitely evolved from being a prototypical point guard, the one who sets the table up for his team, to becoming an equally-deadly scoring threat from all over the court. Pringle has shown the ability to create his own shots, either on the halfcourt or on the break. He has slowly improved his perimeter game, occasionally knocking in jumpers from beyond the arc, sometimes even off the dribble.
The clamor has since grew for Pringle to be a permanent fixture in the men’s squad.
However, Pringle is just eight months younger than Castro. At 31, Pringle has logged years-worth of basketball not just in the Philippines but also in Indonesia and Europe. After the Asian Games, Pringle is expected to carry the load for his ball club back home. The mileage keeps running for the Batang Pier standout. Wear and tear may soon catch up, as with any high-caliber basketball player like Pringle.
He may be at his peak and at the top of his game, but for how long? And how many international tournaments will he miss out before the eligibility issues are sorted out?
But while we wait for FIBA to change their stance and for our basketball leaders to make the right move, let’s just sit back and enjoy the opportunity of having Pringle as the Philippines’ ace point guard in the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games.