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Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Onyeka Okongwu are Gilas Pilipinas TOTGAs

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Onyeka Okongwu
James Francisco

Twitter: Rappler Sports

Concluding a rather underwhelming FIBA 2023 World Cup, Gilas Pilipinas has its sights set on the quadrennial Asian Games, with Hangzhou, China, hosting the festivities from September 23 to October 8, 2023. 

Despite the absence of the resident option, Jordan Clarkson, departing to Salt Lake City in preparation for the National Basketball Association (NBA) season opener in October, the program expounds on the fledgling talent present locally and overseas, seeking the next man up for the sole naturalization slot.

Barangay Ginebra’s Justin Brownlee and Jones Cup Rain or Shine’s Elasto Painter Angelo Kouame pose as promising alternatives, as two familiar names surprisingly made the cut in Gilas Pilipinas’ initial 60-man pool submission to the Hangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee (HAGOC): Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Onyeka Okongwu.

YouTube: FIBA – The Basketball Channel

Philippine Basketball Association’s (PBA) former Import of the Conference-turned-Jordan nationalist during the recent FIBA World Cup, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, presented a promising option as a filler in Clarkson’s absence. The southpaw Bald-Mamba displayed remnants of the five-time NBA Champion, finishing the tournament sixth in scoring with 23.6 points per game, coupled with Kobe Bryant’s signature craftiness and accessories on the floor. 

Hollis-Jefferson’s inability to join the Nationals during their Asian Games campaign would not have signaled his last appearance locally, as his scheduled TNT Tropang Giga reunion with a Commissioner's Cup repeat is in sight.

YouTube: Longo

A rather wild-card candidate, Atlanta Hawks’ Onyeka Okongwu, expressed his interest in representing the Philippines. According to Rappler’s Naveen Ganglani, the 6′8″ forward center’s upbringing is rooted heavily in Chino Hills’ Filipino Community, training with Terrafirma Dyip’s Alex Cabagnot and the Fil-Am Nation. The Philippines appears as the front-runner in acquiring the 22-year-old’s elite talent, finishing his junior season in the league with averages of 9.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 64% FG, and 78% FT.

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) holds a history of sourcing external talent, bringing in naturalized cagers to assist Gilas Pilipinas’ international tourneys. By FIBA definition, foreign-born players who either possess a bloodline connection or are willing to represent the country of interest must acquire a passport that evidences their eligibility.

With Hollis-Jefferson and Okongwu’s surnames appearing on the latter portion of the list, their addition to Gilas Pilipinas may assist in fortifying the rich talent locally, bringing their unparalleled skill set, size, and experience. Come the 2027 FIBA World Cup, Clarkson will near the tail-end of his professional career as the country looks for deserving and interested individuals who may further enhance the program for future generations.

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