Rep. Robbie Puno filed in Congress yesterday House Bill No. 6169, which seeks to grant Philippine citizenship to Denver Nuggets center JaVale Lindy McGee. After a series of consultations with House Speaker Sonny Belmonte and some members of the House of Representatives, Puno got the go-signal to file the bill that could possibly make the 7’1” Denver Nuggets center a naturalized Filipino. If the bill is passed into law, the Flint, Michigan native can represent the Philippines in international basketball competitions as a naturalized player.
Puno, the Antipolo District 1 representative in Congress, was also the one who sponsored the bill that led to Republic Act 10148 that conferred Philippine Citizenship to former Providence College standout Marcus Douthit, who suited up for the Smart Gilas national team in the 2011 FIBA-Asia Championship in Wuhan, China where the Philippines finished fourth. Douthit was the best player in the tournament, averaging 21.9 points and 12.2 rebounds, eclipsing NBA veterans Yi Jianlian’s (China) 16.6 points and 10.6 rebounds, and Hamed Haddadi’s (Iran) 15.4 markers and 11.4 boards.
“JaVale’s naturalization will offer us a choice. Marcus Douthit will still be with Smart Gilas but with JaVale around, we will have another option in case of any eventuality. If any problem arises, like in the case of injuries, the whole program will collapse if we don’t have alternative solutions,” said Puno in an exclusive interview with Yahoo Sports. “Both JaVale and Marcus will help the training of the national team against bigger opponents. Right now, there is nobody from among the locals who can match up against Marcus in practice. Also, Javale can help the program long-term since Marcus is already 31 years old.”
McGee played in the recent NBA playoffs where his team lost 3-4 to the Los Angeles Lakers in a Best-of-Seven series for the First Round of the Western Conference semis, where he posted norms of 8.6 points, 9.6 caroms and 3.1 blocks.
“JaVale is the best available center out there who has never played in any national team. Hopefully, no other country gets him ahead of us. Kaya unahan na natin sila,” added Puno.
McGee was actually invited twice to the United States men’s national team training camp and even played with Team USA in a scrimmage in 2010 before being cut shortly after.It took awhile for Puno to file the bill because of the on-going impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, where some members of the Congress’ Justice Committee are also part of the prosecution panel. The bill will soon be moved from the Justice Committee to the Plenary of Congress for a period of interpolations before being shifted to the Senate for a similar process.
“I am confident that the bill will be passed into law eventually although it must first undergo a long process. But we have time. Our goal is to have McGee naturalized before the 27th FIBA Asia Championship in August next year, the qualifying tournament for the 2014 FIBA World Championships,” stated Puno. “If after both chambers approve, it finally goes for the approval of the President. And if after 30 days from receipt the President fails to sign, just like in the case of Marcus, it lapses into law. Presidential Decrees are no longer a method of making laws in this country.”
The 24-year old McGee was picked 18th overall by the Washington Wizards in the 2008 NBA Draft. He visited the country twice last year and played in an exhibition game against a PBA selection team and Smart Gilas alongside other NBA stars including Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose and Chris Paul. In the two-day exhibition series, McGee averaged 20.5 points and wowed the crowd with thunderous dunks and imposing blocks. He placed second in the 2011 NBA Slam Dunk contest, which landed him in the Guinness Book of World Records for jamming three balls in a single jump. He is also said to have the longest wingspan among current NBA players, which measured seven feet and 6.5 inches.
Puno revealed that McGee has genuinely expressed his willingness to play for the Philippine Team.
“The SBP (Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas) and Smart spent a lot in the program, hiring an international coach and the best locals available. The quest to bring back the country’s old glory in Asian basketball is not cheap. The naturalization of McGee will certainly help us achieve that,” added Puno.
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