Home Sports Boatwright may be worth it, but his naturalization faces long wait

Boatwright may be worth it, but his naturalization faces long wait

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Boatwright may be worth it, but his naturalization faces long wait

The versatile Bennie Boatwright Jr. can play the stretch big role for Gilas Pilipinas. —AUGUST DELA CRUZ

Don’t hold your breath on Bennie Boatwright Jr. donning the Gilas Pilipinas kit anytime soon.

The San Miguel Beer import may provide the same qualities that naturalized Filipino Justin Brownlee brings to the table for the national squad—and he’s even got much better size—but he faces a long wait for his new citizenship.

“It’s usually a long process; it took Justin a long time to get his,” national coach Tim Cone told reporters on Sunday night.

Brownlee expressed his interest in becoming Filipino as early as 2018. The process only got going in 2022, after the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) sought the national government’s help leading up to the country’s hosting of the 2023 Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup.

The beloved Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) import was finally granted citizenship on Jan. 12 last year through Republic Act 11937, formally putting him alongside former Ateneo star Ange Kouame and Utah Jazz ace Jordan Clarkson in the Gilas pool of active naturalized players.

At the very least, the SBP has already gotten the ball rolling, starting with the most important move: Getting Boatwright to agree to represent the country.

“[As] far as I know, we have an agreement that he’s already submitting papers to naturalize,” Cone said.

The national federation confirmed that, sending a media advisory that Boatwright has started his naturalization process.

‘Great size’

By all accounts, however, the stretch big who led the Beermen to the recent PBA Commissioner’s Cup crown is worth the wait.

“He’s got great size and he can play in and out. He’s very versatile and he kind of reminds me of a young Justin—just, like, three or four inches taller,” Cone said.

“I was the one who asked for him. I think he’s a tremendous talent.”

The hope is that Boatwright, 27, won’t be idle while his papers are being processed. At best, Cone is looking at Boatwright to provide a valuable presence during practices.

“We have to get him into practice and get him into the system and everything else,” the two-time Grand Slam coach said. “But that’s a long way away. That’s not gonna happen tomorrow. That’s not gonna happen next month. That’s not gonna happen in June or July.”

“When we go to Latvia it’s gonna be Justin being the guy. But if we can get him (Bennie) into practice and get him involved in the system, if something does—God forbid—happen to someone, he can be ready to step in. That’s the plan.”

Boatwright Jr., who is currently plying his trade in China for the Shanxi Loongs, faces a lot of steps before acquiring Filipino citizenship and his fast-tracked bid to officially reinforce Gilas will be at the mercy of the country’s lawmakers.

Someone has to first file a bill seeking to grant Boatwright Filipino citizenship. Then the bill would need to pass three readings in the Congress and in the Senate. Only then can the sitting President sign the bill into law.



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In an earlier exclusive interview with the Inquirer, Cone said that he is open to considering other players to reinforce the national team. INQ





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