MANILA (AFP) – The Philippines’ hopes of winning a first Asian Games basketball medal in 16 years have taken a dive with organisers banning star US import Andray Blatche, sports chiefs said Friday.
Organisers ruled the Brooklyn Nets centre, who became a naturalised Filipino in June, did not meet a three-year residency requirement, Philippine Olympic Committee spokesman Joey Romasanta told AFP.
Marcus Douthit, another American-born player who played most of his career in Europe and became a Filipino citizen in 2011, will replace Blatche, Romasanta said.
Romasanta said he hoped the squad going to Incheon, South Korea, for the Games would be able to perform well in the absence of the 2.11-metre (six-foot, 11-inch) Blatche, who recently led the Philippines at the World Cup in Spain.
“When you’re down one player, that’s the time you have to show heart,” he said.
However coach Chot Reyes signalled his concern.
“Just got final word from Incheon that Blatche is out. What a shame. Gotta get DouthitMarcus in game shape, pronto,” Reyes said on his Twitter feed.
The Philippines are bidding for their first Asiad podium finish in basketball since winning the bronze medal at the 1998 Bangkok Games.
Confidence is high after the Philippines performed surprisingly well at the World Cup, defeating Senegal for their first win at the top level in 40 years, while also pushing Croatia, Greece, Argentina and Puerto Rico.
Blatche was granted Filipino citizenship under a special law that was signed and rushed through by President Benigno Aquino in June.
He was specifically recruited and naturalised to boost the chances of the Philippines in international games.
Basketball is the number one sport in the Philippines, a legacy of former US colonial rule, but they have always struggled on the international stage because of their relatively small stature.