Blatche ineligible for Asian Games but FIBA urges reconsideration

MANILA- Philippines - Andray Blatche, the Philippine men's national team's naturalized center, was declared ineligible to play for Gilas Pilipinas in the upcoming Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea which begins on September 19. However, the International Basketball Federation, or FIBA, urged for reconsideration of the decision.

The Incheon Asian Games Organizing Committee (IAGOC) disallowed Blatche to play on the basis of a rule which requires naturalized players to complete a 3-year residency in the country he represents. The 6-foot-11 Blatche was officially granted Filipino citizenship only this past June.

FIBA then addressed a letter to IAGOC asking them to review the decision and "apply FIBA's regulations on eligibility for all teams participating in the basketball tournaments at the Asian Games and re-enlist the Filipino player."

In the same letter signed by Secretary General Patrick Baumann, FIBA stressed that Blatche should be eligible to play since he already suited up for Gilas in the FIBA World Cup in Spain, and being that the Asian Games is a FIBA-sanctioned tournament, the same rules on eligibility established by the International Federation should apply to Blatche in this instance.

"The player that you have prohibited Entry plays is registered in FIBA's eligibility system as a player for the Philippines and has, in fact, just played several games this past week at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain for that country," the letter stated. "It is quite confusing to hear that he is now not allowed to compete for the same team just a few weeks later."

Chinese Taipei's Quincy Davis has also been barred from playing as a result of the decision.

The eligibility of Fil-Am players Jared Dillinger and Gabe Norwood had also been challenged before both were cleared to play.

Blatche, the 28-year old former Brooklyn Nets big man who is now a free agent, gave Gilas a major boost in the Philippines' first campaign on the world stage in nearly 40 years, averaging 21.2 points and 13.8 rebounds in 5 games in the World Cup.

The Philippines failed to advance to the next round and ended their campaign with a 1-4 win-loss record which could easily have been 4-1 due to their close losses to powerhouses Croatia, Argentina and Puerto Rico.

Gilas suffered their first heartbreak after falling to Croatia in overtime. They next gave third-ranked Argentina a scare before inexperience rendered them unable to convert down the stretch. They also could have won against Puerto Rico had they not blown an early double-digit deficit. The Philippines defied all expectations and lost only by a combined 23 points, with Greece being the only clear-cut defeat.

The Philippines previously defeated South Korea in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships held in Manila to qualify for the World Cup and bag the silver medal. The win also ended a string of heartbreaking losses to Korea over the years. 

Korea finished their World Cup campaign in Group D without a win and were blown out by their opponents. They lost all 5 games by a combined 108 points. Meanwhile, Asian champions Iran, who is grouped with the Philippines in the Asian Games, also failed to get past Group A in Spain with a 1-4 record and were beaten by a combined 77 points in 4 losses. - Rappler.com