(STAR) By Joaquin Henson - POC first vice president and Rep. Monico Puentevella said yesterday he will push for a two-day basketball summit in Cebu within the next two months to determine the future of the sport in the country after the national team’s failure to clinch an Olympic ticket in the FIBA-Asia qualifiers in Tokushima.

Puentevella was in Tokushima to witness the Philippines‚ crash and came back with PBA chairman Ricky Vargas after the first round of eliminations last Tuesday.

“It will be a working summit among basketball leaders all over the country,” said Puentevella. “We’ll ask (national coach) Chot Reyes to brief us on our international objectives. We’ll also look at our domestic objectives. I’m suggesting Cebu as the site to make it easier for our Mindanao officials to attend. Michel (Lhuillier) was in Tokushima and I’m sure he will be happy to host.”

Lhuillier is a member of the SBP Board of Trustees.

Puentevella said there are lessons to be learned from the collapse in Tokushima and instead of sulking, the national team should be mapping out plans of getting back on track for the 2009 FIBA-Asia World Championship qualifiers, the 2010 World Championships, the 2010 Asian Games, the 2011 FIBA-Asia Olympic qualifiers and the 2012 London Olympics.

An issue for discussion in the summit is whether or not to recruit a naturalized player for the national team, mentioned Puentevella. He said FIBA allows a country to draft one naturalized citizen to compensate for the handicap of countries with undersized players or gaps in their lineups.

FIBA previously permitted two naturalized players per country. In 1986, the Philippines used the rule to its advantage, taking in Dennis Still and Jeff Moore to reinforce the national squad that beat China in the finals of the FIBA-Asia Championships in Kuala Lumpur.

In Tokushima, at least three countries enlisted naturalized players – Lebanon with Joe Vogel of Colorado State, Jordan with Rasheim Wright of District of Columbia and Japan with J. R. Henderson (now Sakuragi) of UCLA.

Countries that recruited naturalized players in the past include the US (Hakeem Olajuwon, Pat Ewing), Russia (J. R. Holden), Japan (Dan Weiss, Eric McArthur), Spain (Wayne Brabender, Clifford Luyk, Antonio Sibilio, Juan Antonio de la Cruz), France (Crawford Palmer), Venezuela (Askia Jones) and Australia (Ricky Grace, C. J. Bruton).

“It was evident in Tokushima how dependent we were on Asi (Taulava) as our only big man,” said Puentevella. “When Asi got hurt, we had no one to turn to. We could‚ve used a naturalized player who’s 6-11 or 7-feet. The rule to use a naturalized player is there. We used it before. We need someone who can control the boards. Look at Jordan. Their naturalized player (Wright) destroyed us.”

Puentevella said he spoke with the Korean team’s Daniel Sandrin of Seattle Pacific University in Tokushima and was surprised by his comments. It wasn’t certain if Sandrin is a Korean-American, therefore qualifying as a local, or a naturalized citizen. But he was born and raised in the US.

“Sandrin told me he couldn’t relate with the Koreans because they hardly speak English,” said Puentevella. “He felt more comfortable with our team. He agreed we got a bad deal from the referee in the Iran game.”

Puentevella said a candidate for naturalization is San Beda’s 6-8 center Sam Ekwe of Nigeria.

“If Ekwe gets better and matures, we should consider him if he wants to be naturalized,” said Puentevella. “We should also look at our local boys, like Japeth Aguilar (now playing for Western Kentucky) and this 19-year-old kid from Cebu (6-11 Greg Fuentes-Slaughter). I heard we can recruit a tall Serbian but the good ones would rather play for their country.”

Puentevella said the national team must be more familiar with the international style to make an impact. That will mean more foreign exposure and learning from teams with Olympic success like Argentina.

Puentevella said the two-day summit should also address the issues of grassroots development, standardization of rules and the PBA’s continuing commitment to lend players for the national team.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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