MANILA, Philippines (AP) Brooklyn Nets player Andray Blatche was granted Filipino citizenship on Wednesday so he can play for the national team at the FIBA World Cup this year, Philippine officials said.
President Benigno Aquino III signed a law granting citizenship to the American-born Blatche, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, the main author of the law, said Filipinos are a ”sports-loving nation with a distinct affection for basketball” and that the 2.11-meter (6-foot-11) Blatche can make ”significant contributions to Philippines basketball.”
The International Basketball Federation, or FIBA, allows each team to have one naturalized player per tournament. The Philippines is competing at the World Cup for the first time in 35 years.
Blatche, a center and power forward, averaged 11.2 points and 5.3 rebounds per game this season for Brooklyn, which was eliminated by the Miami Heat in the NBA’s Eastern Conference semifinals last month.
Arriving in the Philippines on Sunday to meet the team, Blatche said that playing for the country ”wasn’t a tough decision” to make.
”The sport of basketball is huge here,” he told reporters at a news conference Tuesday. ”It’s in the heart of every Filipino and I love basketball, and so it’s like we have that similarity.”
The Philippines are in Group B at the World Cup, along with Argentina, Croatia, Greece, Puerto Rico and Senegal. The tournament will be held in Spain in late August through early September.
After the World Cup, Blatche will again play for the Philippines team at the Asian Games in South Korea in September.