PHILIPPINES basketball could get a glimpse of its past and its future if Isaiah Austin and Andray Blatche meet in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup.
Austin, the 23-year-old centre cleared to play again after missing the 2014 NBA draft when he was diagnosed with a genetic heart disorder, is the latest contender to fill Gilas’ naturalised player role.
The 7ft 1in Californian – a projected first-round pick before his diagnosis – is on the Chooks-to-Go roster headed for the tournament in China, which starts on Friday.
The tournament is Austin’s first audition to succeed former NBA star Blatche as Philippines’ go-to naturalised star.
And, if both Chooks-to-Go and Blatche’s Chinese team Xinjiang Flying Tigers progress in the tournament, the young pretender could go head to head with the veteran.
Blatche, Philippines’ naturalised player since 2014, skipped last month’s FIBA Asia Cup and his future with the national team remains unclear.
That is why national coach Chot Reyes has drafted in Austin, who is relishing the high level of competition in China.
“It’s always exciting to be able to play against great competition,” said Austin. “And, as a basketball player, I was taught not to back down against anybody.
“I played against the best and I always held my own, somehow, some way. So when it’s time for us to match up, I’m gonna play hard. That’s all I can do.”
On the possibility of going head-to-head with Blatche, Austin is unfazed.
“I’ve seen a lot of his NBA games, I know his style of play,” he said.
“He’s a very, very crafty player. A very good post-up player.
“Whenever I can, I study films of a lot of players. And I can definitely learn a lot of things watching him play.”