Moying Martelino, the Philippine Olympic Committee official designated to submit required documents for the SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national team participating in the ongoing FIBA Asia Championship, said on Thursday that there is still a chance for wingmen Chris Lutz and Marcio Lassiter to see action in the Olympic qualifying tournament.
“They’re not disqualified to play,” said Martelino, who once served as secretary-general of FIBA Asia. “They’re only not allowed to play until after they’ve submitted documents to prove that they’re Filipino.”
On Wednesday, FIBA Asia deputy secretary-general Hagop Khajirian raised questions about the eligibility of the two Filipino-American players. Minutes before the Philippine team’s opening match against the United Arab Emirates the next day, SMART-Gilas were still unable to get clearance for the two stalwarts, forcing the squad to play with just ten men.
The contention over the eligibility of Lassiter and Lutz came as a surprise to the team and to the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, the country’s national basketball federation.
Martelino said that there has been a misunderstanding on the part of FIBA Asia about the status of the two players.
“I think the confusion lies on the Article 321 of FIBA, which refers to players who were naturalized as in the case of Marcus Douthit,” said Martelino. “But Lassiter and Lutz are natural-born Filipinos and we will present this stand to FIBA Asia.”
“We will meet with Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director Sonny Barrios [on Friday] and send to FIBA Asia our position,” he added. SMART-Gilas hopes to have the two players available when they face Asian powerhouse China in the second day of competition.