With key players from the three San Miguel Corporation (SMC) teams finally answering the clamor for national team duty, one question lingers.
When will Chris Ross, the do-it-all point guard for the San Miguel Beermen, get that national team call-up?
This, after Ross’ teammates Christian Standhardinger, Alex Cabagnot and Marcio Lassiter, Ginebra’s Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar and Scottie Thompson, and Magnolia’s Paul Lee and Ian Sangalang all have accepted the invitation of Coach Yeng Guiao to join the men’s national squad for its new mission. Guiao, the newly-installed national team head coach, will handle the all-PBA squad in the resumption of the FIBA Basketball World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
On September 13, the Philippine quintet visits Tehran to battle Hamed Haddadi and Iran, the three-time FIBA Asia champions. Four days later, the Philippines hosts Qatar in a close-door qualifying match inside the Araneta Coliseum.
All in all, Guiao already has eight SMC standouts in his 16-man pool. Chastised in the past by critics for being “ungenerous” in lending players to the national team program, the SMC conglomerate now forms half of the selection.
The current pool has three players from the San Miguel Beermen, the reigning four-time PBA Philippine Cup titlists. Standhardinger has represented the country in numerous international tournaments, while Lassiter was a member of the very first Gilas Pilipinas line-up. After 13 seasons in the PBA, Cabagnot finally gets his first chance in cracking the national team roster.
So why was Ross not included in Guiao’s list? After all, Ross has been a vital cog for the Beermen in their last six title conquests in the PBA. The spunky Fil-American playmaker out of Texas collected individual accolades along the way, including two Finals MVP awards and a Best Player of the Conference (BPC) plum.
In the Radio5 92.3 radio show “Power & Play”, Guiao addressed the question in a recent guesting with his assistant coach and chief scout Ryan Gregorio. A wrinkle in the FIBA eligibility guidelines hinders Ross’ inclusion in the current pool.
“There will be a question with Chris Ross’ eligibility. Madadagdagan pa yung ating mga kino-consider na naturalized player,” Guiao explained.
National squads are only allowed to tap one naturalized player in their 12-man lineup. The status of being a “naturalized player” applies to players who have acquired their passport beyond the age of 16, regardless of their lineage. Though it is uncertain at what age Ross received his Philippine passport, it is the same predicament that besets Standhardinger and Stanley Pringle from joining the national team at the same time.
Guiao is still in a bind who between Standhardinger and Pringle would suit up in the games against Iran and Qatar.
As Guiao cleared the air over Ross’ eligibility in the Saturday morning sports show hosted by former PBA commissioner Noli Eala, the multi-titled mentor also justified the call-up for Cabagnot. Guiao once coached Cabagnot from 2009 to 2010 for the Burger King Whoppers, but the lefty point guard has since flourished with San Miguel.
“Dun sa San Miguel team naisip ko rin na itong si Alex Cabagnot, sa tagal na ang ganda ng nilalaro niya, hindi na rin bata si Alex e,” said Guiao of Cabagnot, a proud owner of seven PBA championships, all with the SMC franchise. Aside from being a former Finals MVP, Cabagnot has a penchant for hitting key baskets during crunch time.
Cabagnot’s chance to don the “Pilipinas” jersey may have finally arrived, according to Guiao.
“Nasa 35 years old na sya. He deserves a chance to represent the national team this time.”