Gilas’ next possible candidate for naturalization has arrived.
The 23-year-old Isaiah Austin, who is set to reinforce Chooks To Go Pilipinas in the upcoming FIBA Asia Champions Cup in China, touched down in Manila on Tuesday evening.
Austin was greeted by Gilas head coach Chot Reyes upon his arrival and seemed optimistic of his chances getting naturalized.
“That’s definitely my goal, is to come out here and become Filipino and become part of the family,” Austin, who last saw action for the Guangxi Rhinos in China, said in an interview with News5’s Fraulein Olavario.
I'm here. 🇵🇭
Ready to get to work. Thank you all the fans for the endless love and support that I've received already. ❤️💙
— Isaiah Austin (@IsaiahAustin) September 12, 2017
— Chot Reyes (@coachot) September 12, 2017
— Fraulein Olavario (@frauey) September 12, 2017
The 7-foot Austin declared for the NBA draft in 2014 but was forced to withdraw and retire from competitive basketball after he was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome. But two later, he received medical clearance to play again, which led him to China.
Reyes told reporters in practice Monday they have been eyeing Austin for quite some time now as someone the Gilas program could naturalize. But the head coach emphasized the naturalization process wouldn’t be that easy.
“People have to understand our naturalization – we don’t have a ‘piso-piso’ naturalization process,” Reyes said. “We’re not like other countries when you say somebody comes in and tomorrow he’ll be naturalized. That’s not the case. You have to go through Congress, and Congress doesn’t want to naturalize players every year, or every two years.”
Austin will join Gilas’ practice on Wednesday and hopes to make an impression on his new teammates and to the rest of the nation.
“I’m gonna work hard and hopefully the fans enjoy me enough to where they’ll make the decision to choose me at the end of the day,” he said.