Photo by jumpball.co.kr
If you can’t beat them, join them.
That’s the memo from Asian countries who are falling behind in international basketball competition. The Asian players just can’t keep up with the rest of the world. So they’ve gone out to recruit some foreign talent granting them citizenship to their country in exchange for their basketball services.
Rumours spread prior to the 2014 Incheon Asian Games that Korean Basketball League veteran Aaron Haynes (from Sacramento, California) was to become a Korean citizen and start participating in international event. But prior to South Korea’s semi-final match of the Asian Games against Japan, Korean Basketball Association (KBA) chairman Bang Yeol denied the naturalization story of Haynes.
“Those rumours are not true. The press wants to make up stories. We already have a naturalized player. Our naturalized player was born in Korea. He is Korean (Moon Taejong). Aaron Haynes was a story that was fabricated by the media,” says Bang.
When asked about next year’s FIBA Asia championships in China, Bang said Haynes is not in that picture.
Haynes, who is 33 years old, was all for the idea of becoming a naturalized Korean citizen. He is entering his seventh season in the Korean Basketball League and has built a solid foundation with the basketball community in Korea.
“He’s really adapted to our culture. Basketball is basketball but what makes Haynes so special is that he took the time to embrace our culture and in doing so it made playing alongside the Korean players that much easier. This organization loves him like family,” says Haynes’ Korean general manager JiTak Chang.
Recently, the Philippines naturalized NBA veteran Andray Blatche. It was rumoured that Blatche received about $1 million in the deal. This summer the Philippines, with help from Blatche, were able to get their first win at the FIBA World Cup in 40 years.
Sources around the Korean basketball community said the KBA approached NBA talents Mason Plumblee and Anthony Randolph trying to recruit them for a naturalization process but both players denied the offer. Japan, Qatar, Taiwan and the Philippines are just some of the examples of countries that have used naturalized players.