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Is SMB’s Bennie Boatwright Jr. The Next Gilas Pilipinas Star?

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas seems fixed on bringing in SMB’s Bennie Boatwright Jr. as the next naturalized option for the national program.
Bennie Boatwright Jr.
James Francisco

The Philippines has had its fair share of courting international talent to supplement Gilas Pilipinas’ campaign. And while the country manages competitive head-to-head matchups against its global counterparts, the role of the naturalized cager remains catalytic, more than often manning the reigns as the facilitator and most effective piece on the court.

From the program’s history of acquiring top-tier talent, one thing is certain—Gilas values size (well, minus Jordan Clarkson), as San Miguel Beermen’s (SMB) Bennie Boatwright Jr. presents a similar narrative.

YouTube: One Sports

The University of Southern California (USC) alumnus surfaced as SMB’s trojan horse during the 2023-24 Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup campaign. He choreographed an 11-2 record with the squad, including a 51-point outing, and the franchise’s 5th chip (and 29th championship overall) with averages of 24.2 markers and 12 rebounds in the finals.

He now sides with the Chinese Basketball Association’s Shanxi Loongs, though keeps close contact with the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP). He reportedly agreed and submitted naturalization requirements, which the federation confirmed through a media advisory post.

Instagram: @samahangbasketbolngpilipinas

Boatwright appears as the “ideal” candidate for Tim Cone’s “constant” structure, noting his versatility and all-around ability on the hardwood, as the veteran PBA mentor personally reached out regarding the possibility.

“He’s got great size and he can play in and out. He’s very versatile and he kind of reminds me of a young Justin (Brownlee)—just, like, three or four inches taller,” the two-time Grand Slam coach mentioned.

“We have to get him into practice and get him into the system and everything else, but that’s a long way away…When we go to Latvia it’s gonna be Justin being the guy. But if we can get him (Boatwright) into practice and get him involved in the system, if something does—God forbid—happen to someone, he can be ready to step in. That’s the plan,” he added.

With Brownlee approaching the tail-end of his professional career, the SBP seems fixed on Boatwright’s ability to complement the program moving forward. At a youthful 23 years of age, only time will tell if he’ll be able to jell with the roster and find his footing on the international competitive scene.

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