Will Isaiah Austin be the next naturalized player of Gilas?

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Isaiah Austin (21) of the Baylor Bears runs up the floor against the Creighton Bluejays during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at the AT&T Center on March 23, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. Tom Pennington, Getty Images/AFP

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines’ newest naturalization candidate for the national basketball team, Isaiah Austin, will join the squad’s practice for the first time on Wednesday at the Meralco Gym.

Austin will be one of two imports for the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas team, which will represent the country in the upcoming FIBA Asia Champions Cup in Changzhou, China, on September 22-30. The other is University of the Philippines’ Bright Akhuetie, who already suited up for Monday’s practice.

However, Austin’s inclusion in the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas team is just the first step, as he is also being considered as a naturalized player for the Gilas Pilipinas national team.

“We wanted to take a look at Austin,” said Gilas coach Chot Reyes after Monday night’s practice. “Not only his skills, his game, but how well he’ll get along with his teammates.”

“We wanted to get a better idea of his attitude, and nothing gives you a glimpse of a player’s attitude more than going into an actual tournament out of the country with that player,” he explained. 

“So we wanna take a look if he’ll be a good prospect for a naturalized player for us.”

Austin is expected to arrive Tuesday.

At first glance, Austin clearly fits the bill as a potential naturalized player. Ranked third in his recruiting class, the 7-foot-1 Austin is only 23 years old, meaning he can grow and develop alongside the young Gilas players.

He had also proven his worth during his time in Baylor, averaging 11.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks per game during his sophomore year, after which he declared for the 2014 NBA Rookie Draft.

That was when the red flags popped up, however, as Austin was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome that abruptly ended his basketball career. He was made a ceremonial draft pick by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

It was not until November 2016 that Austin received clearance to play basketball again, and in January 2017, he signed with FMP Belgrade in Serbia. Most recently, he played for the Guanxi Rhinos in China’s National Basketball League.

Austin and Akhuetie will be Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas’ imports in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup with both Andray Blatche and Christian Standhardinger unavailable.

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