Basketball exec Martelino to plead for Blatche’s case, 2 others for Asian Games

MANILA, Philippines – No longer a spring chicken at 79, Mauricio “Moying” Martelino would love nothing better than rest in his twilight years and smell the roses.

But heeding the call for flag and country, Martelino will be the advocate for the inclusion of Filipino-Americans Gabe Norwood and Jared Dillinger, plus naturalized center Andray Blatche in the 17th Asian Games opening on Sept. 19 in Incheon, South Korea.

Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richie Garcia bared Wednesday, September 3, that he has asked the help of the experienced basketball official to plead the cases of all three players during the Asian Games delegation registration meeting scheduled September 11 to 12 in Incheon.     

 “We need Moying, who is well-versed in international basketball rules, to explain to the Asian Games organizers why all three are eligible to play for country. If I were the one to reason out, I might commit a mistake,” explained Garcia, who is also the PH chef de mission to the Incheon Asiad.

“When no less than [the] PSC chairman, who also happens to be the Asian Games national team chief of mission, asks for your help, how can you refuse,” said  the former secretary general of the Asian Basketball Confederation a day after meeting with Garcia.

Martelino was the secretary general of the ABC, as FIBA Asia was then known, from 1993 to 2001.   

He will be at the side of Garcia lobbying for the participation of Norwood, Dillinger and Blatche in the critical two-day meeting where the list of athletes taking part in the Asian Games will be vetted and approved.

Garcia persuaded Martelino to help out after receiving a formal letter by e-mail from the Incheon Asian Games Organizing Committee late afternoon Tuesday, Sept. 2, clarifying the status of the three basketball players and Fil-German tennis player Katarina Lennart.

“As of this, we –IAGOC – found that the tennis player seems to be eligible but the basketball players are in question. We are also awaiting a final confirmation from the OCA (Olympic Council of Asia) as we sent the data to the council last week.

“Upon hearing from them we will let you know,” the note obtained by Rappler, with the permission of Garcia, said.   

Under the OCA’s Eligibility Code, the OCA Executive Board can decide on the fate of an athlete aiming to compete in the Asian Games.

“In effect, IAGOC’s response practically meant nothing to us,” Garcia rued.

He added that they were now processing the documents and other requirements of Martelino, who is a consultant of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas  - the recognized basketball body in the country – so he will have a personality during the crucial meeting in Incheon.

Garcia could not have picked a better man as a spokesperson for the embattled cagers in Martelino, who was the executive director of the World Men’s Basketball Championships when it was hosted in Manila in 1978.

He was also the secretary general of the defunct Basketball Association of the Philippines, the forerunner of the SBP, under the late BAP president Gonzalo “Lito” Puyat, who also served as International Basketball Federation president from 1976 to 1984.

Banking on his deep knowledge of international basketball, Martelino was a firm believer that all three players were eligible to play in Incheon.

He noted that Norwood and Dillinger, who play for Rain or Shine and Meralco in the PBA, respectively, have lived and stayed in the Philippines long enough and would be able to pass the three-year residency rule.

“Besides, Norwood and Dillinger have also seen action only for the country in several international competitions,” Martelino pointed out.

The three-year residency rule was also cited in the case of Blatche, a native of Syracuse, New York, who was naturalized early this year so he could play for Gilas Pilipinas, the national men’s basketball squad currently playing in the FIBA World Cup in Spain.

“This rule can only be invoked if the naturalized player in question has played for his former country in a world championship, Olympic Games, Asian Games or any other international competition,” Martelino stressed. “But Blatche has never played for the US so is not covered by the three-year residency rule.”

He speculated that the Asian Games hosts may be making it hard for Blatche, currently an NBA free agent, because of his impressive showing for the Nationals in the FIBA World Cup.

Martelino likened the issue involving the athletic 6-foot-11 big man to a basketball match  “where we are asking if our player has made any violation. Ultimately, the IAGOC, just like the referee, will have to make the call and we have to abide by it.”

So what are Blatche’s chances of making the Incheon trip?

“We shall see, we shall see,” was Martelino’s terse reply. -