Philippine basketball is riding a new high these days, with noteworthy performances rendered by the youth teams in the Under-17 World Championship and the Under-18 Asian tournament, as well as the on-going campaign of the Gilas Pilipinas five in the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
With Philippine basketball making it big on a global stage, more and more Filipino families, both residing locally and those based abroad, are exploring the possibility of their children playing for the national team.
Though they are located several thousand miles away, young Filipino-foreigners AJ Edu and Ethan Kirkness could represent the three stars and the sun soon.
Both born to Filipino mothers, Edu and Kirkness’ parents have expressed their intention for their kids to suit up for the Philippines in international basketball competitions.
A Filipino-Nigerian just like former Ateneo stalwart Jobe Nkemakolam, current Mapua Cardinal Joseph Eriobu and ex- University of Minnesota guard Maverick Ahanmisi, Edu already stands at 6’7” at only 14 years of age.
In terms of citizenship, Edu has no problem complying with the eligibility requirements set by FIBA for athletes with a foreign lineage, as he has carried a Philippine passport since he was two-years-old, according to Josie Edu, AJ’s mother, per the Philippine Star report.
A native of Surigao City, Josie Edu also disclosed that her husband, Ayotounde Edu stood 6’8” and was a former basketball player in his home country of Nigeria. He is now coaching at the high school level in Wales, United Kingdom, where the Edu family is presently residing.
Having yet to be part of any national team, the younger Edu is currently pursued by Wales to be part of its youth roster. This comes after he almost became a member of the Greek national team before his family moved to Wales a year ago.
But Josie Edu insists that she wants her son to play for Team Pilipinas. In a message that she sent to Smart Gilas Pilipinas 2.0 Facebook page administrator Joe Fer Ares: “He has been trained since he was seven years old in FIBA Europe training way [style]. He is playing in a national level with the Under-14, U-16 and this year, he will start training with the U-18. I want him to be of help and benefit his country as well,”
Ares has been able to assist the Edus by getting in touch with an official of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, the sport’s local governing body, regarding Aj’s situation.
On the other hand, Ethan Kirkness hails from the Land Down Under and plays for the Under-13 team of the Gold Coast Celtics, based in Queensland, Australia. Only 12-years-old, Kirkness towers above the competition at 6’5” and still growing.
Being head and shoulders above the rest of his age group, the hefty southpaw earned Most Improved and Most Valuable Player honors while getting selected to play in Gold Coast’s Division 1 side, according to his father Michael.
It also helped that both his parents are relatively tall as well. Michael is a six-footer while his wife and Ethan’s mother Dinah, who is from Dumaguete City, stands 5’10”.
Speaking on behalf of the family, the elder Kirkness relayed that it would be of Ethan’s best interest to further develop his basketball career in the Philippines. Aware of the FIBA rule, Michael is also planning to process Ethan’s Philippine passport next month during their visit to Dinah’s side of the family.
Via the Philippine Star’s report:
“Basketball here is not as popular over there in the Philippines. Basketball struggles here to get TV coverage. So we thought it’s best for Ethan to play in the Philippines to advance his basketball development,” Michael explained.
“We’re going to the Philippines this October to attend to a wedding and at the same time look for an opportunity for advancement of my son in basketball,” Michael said.
They know that Ethan must need to have a Philippine passport by the age of 16 (according to the new FIBA rule) in order to be eligible to represent his mother’s country and Michael said it’s already included in their itinerary during the vacation trip.
Given these developments, the future is indeed looking bright and glimmering for Philippine basketball. As Gilas Pilipinas continues to win hearts and captivate the rest of the global community with its brand of spirited play in the 2014 FIBA World Cup, expect more young cagers of Filipino descent to signify their intent to play for flag and country.
Photos c/o Philippine Star Online