Gilas in search of Blatche replacement

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    WANTED: New Gilas Pilipinas naturalized player.

    Although there are players being considered, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas program director Tab Baldwin said the decision on who will replace former NBA campaigner Andray Blatche as Gilas’ naturalized player is still hanging in the air.

    “What’s the status? It’s pending. We have some candidates that we definitely want to pursue, Angelo Kouame is one of those. We have some players that there have been discussions with and around and about, that would include Chris McCullough and Justin Brownlee,” Baldwin said.

    “There are other players that we haven’t gone on public with because there really isn’t anything to go on public with other than our interest in them and some discussions with them, but no decisions have been made. It’s pending,” he added.

    The likes of Ginebra do-it-all import Justin Brownlee, former San Miguel Beer reinforcement Chris McCullough, and Ivory Coast native Angelo Kouame of defending three-time UAAP champion Ateneo have emerged as possible candidates for the slot.

    The 6-foot-4 forward Brownlee won four crowns for the Kings and a Best Import award in the 2018 mid-season tourney, while the 6-foot-9 Chris McCullough, who saw action in the NBA for Brooklyn and Washington, led the Beermen to last year’s PBA Commissioner’s Cup title.

    The 6-foot-10 Kouame averaged 12.5 points and 11.5 rebounds for the Blue Eagles in the last UAAP cage wars where they bagged their third straight title via a 16-0 season.

    Baldwin, who calls the shots for Ateneo, admitted the health risks and uncertainties brought about by the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on the nationals’ preparations for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers.

    “The time frames aren’t really that positive but were hopeful. This whole process has been derailed by the pandemic and we haven’t been able to move with our timelines the way we would have hoped back in the beginning of the year,” offered Baldwin.

    “When things are taken out of your hands, I kind of compare it to the whole sport of basketball having a collective ACL injury. Everybody has to go to the sidelines and rehab themselves and every facet of the sport is the same.”