After TNT import Donte Greene participated back in March, another import was seen joining the Gilas practice on Thursday at the Meralco Gym.
Greg Smith, Blackwater’s reinforcement in the ongoing 2017 Oppo PBA Commissioner’s Cup, paid a visit to the national pool’s training facility and took part in their drills.
Is he another naturalization candidate? Gilas head coach Chot Reyes said their “door is always open” to players who are thinking about getting naturalized.
“Our priority are the players who can play with June Mar (Fajardo), who can be on the floor together with June Mar,” he said. “Obviously we’re also very interested in Alex Stepheson but we think that he will be essentially playing the same position as June Mar. The thing with guys like Donte and Greg is their ability to play with June Mar.”
Smith, who is pretty much open to the idea of becoming a naturalized player for the national team, said having the chance to work out with the national pool was “a blessing.”
“It’s a rare opportunity for me to come out here and show my skills and perform with these guys — the best guys in the country,” he said.
The Gilas coach said he was impressed with what he saw from Smith during their training session.
“He picked things up very quickly. That’s very typical of players who have been in the NBA. They’ve been in the league, they’ve seen it all and have a lot of experience. What we like about Greg is he’s 26. He’s very young and has a lot of upside and potential,” Reyes explained.
Smith also thought his first day with the group was “very productive.”
“It was good,” he said, “I got to learn a little bit about each other and the coaching staff on how to play. I think I fit this system and I think it’s a great fit.”
He said he hasn’t talked to Andray Blatche on the whole naturalization situation yet but vowed to get in touch with him soon.
Smith played five seasons in the NBA as a role player with three different teams — Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, and Minnesota Timberwolves, holding career averages of 4.0 points and 3.3 rebounds.
Currently with Blackwater, he is averaging 27.7 points, 21.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.2 steals in the Commissioner’s Cup.
Whether or not Smith ends up being one of our naturalized players is anyone’s guess. One thing is sure, though. He has great love for the Philippines.
“It’s my second time here (in the Philippines). I came here first with the Rockets for the preseason game. Loved my time the whole week I was here. I’ve been here since March and I’m having a ball,” he said.
“There’s nothing bad for me to say that I don’t wanna be here. I don’t mind being here. You don’t get a lot of places that love basketball like here.”