MANILA, June 26, 2005 
(STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - Spitfirish guard Tony Rutland, who averaged 15.2 points and 7.7 assists as an import for Syria in the recent FIBA (Federation Internationale de Basketball)-Asia Champions Cup, hopes to play for the Philippine team someday.

Rutland, 30, played three years alongside Tim Duncan at Wake Forest University, an NCAA Division I contender, and has seen action in Korea, Austria, Cyprus, Venezuela and Syria. The 6-2 sharpshooter was the MVP in the 2001 Austrian All-Star Game.

Rutland and his sister Viveca were born in Angeles City to an American serviceman and a Filipina-Korean mother. An older brother was born in Korea where his father was stationed before transferring to Clark Air Base.

His mother Bonnie died of cancer in 1996.

While in Manila for the Champions Cup, several Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) team officials asked Rutland about his Filipino roots.

"I was told to get my papers in order," said Rutland. "Itís been a long-time dream for me to play and live in the Philippines. I would love to do that. My only commitment is playing in the Syrian league playoffs until July then Iím free."

Rutland said a friend, FedEx import Anthony (Pig) Miller, encouraged him to play here.

"When I was told Manila would host this yearís Champions Cup, I jumped at the chance to play," he said. "Some agents contacted me before about playing in the Philippines but nobody ever pursued it because they never saw me play."

Rutland was never drafted by a National Basketball Association (NBA) team although he tried out for the Philadelphia 76ers where his friend and high school teammate Allen Iverson plays.

As a senior at Bethel High in Hampton, Virginia, in 1994, Rutland averaged 26.4 points, 5.0 assists and 3.0 steals to lead the varsity to the state title. He shot 48 percent from three-point range.

At Wake Forest, Rutland averaged 5.8 points as a freshman, 11.9 as a sophomore, 11.8 as a junior and 12.7 as a senior. He shot 37.7 percent from three-point distance and 78 percent from the line in four seasons. Rutland tore ligaments in his right knee in his second year but recovered after reconstructive surgery. He led the Demon Deacons in scoring in three of his last four games as a senior in 1998. During his tenure, Wake Forest posted a combined record of 92 wins and 33 losses.

"I still talk to Tim (Duncan) a lot," said Rutland who lives in Atlanta. "We played three years together."

Rutland played against the Philippine team in the Champions Cup and saw up close how the nationals carved out a 73-57 win over Syria.

"Theyíre very talented," said Rutland, referring to the Filipino cagers. "I can help the national team with my quickness, playmaking, experience and defense. The international game is very different from what the PBA is used to. I know the PBA uses NBA rules. From what I saw, the Philippines is one of the better national teams in Asia. But the players must get more used to the pass-and-shoot style of international basketball."

Jordan coach Maz Trakh, who had a brief stint as Talk ĎNí Text consultant in the PBA two years ago, said Rutland would be an asset to the Philippine team.

"How can anyone question his Filipino heritage?" wondered Trakh. "He looks more Filipino than a lot of Filipinos. If Rutland is on the Philippine team, watch out. He was born in the Philippines. That should make him eligible. Besides, he looks 100 percent Filipino. Heís perfect for the Philippine team. Heís intelligent and articulate. Itís difficult to enter Wake Forest which has high academic standards. In his sophomore year, Rutland was considered Wake Forestís best player, better than Duncan, and wouldíve been drafted if he only applied and didnít get injured."

Rutlandís agent was the late Johnnie Cochran who represented O. J. Simpson in the celebrated double-murder trials in 1997.

Rutland said a lawyer, whom he didnít name, is assisting him in gathering pertinent birth documents to establish his Filipino roots and gain eligibility to play as a local for the Philippine team.

Rutland said once he qualifies as a Filipino player, he will apply for the PBA rookie draft.

"I hope Rutland can join the draft," said PBA commissioner Noli Eala. "If heís legit, heíll be an attraction."

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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