PHILIPPINES Chooks-to-Go bowed out in the quarter-finals of the FIBA Asia Champions League – but the nation may have found a new naturalised star this week.
Isaiah Austin – who was denied a head-to-head with Andray Blatche after Philippines incumbent naturalised player did not enter the court for his China Kashgar side – again underlined his quality.
Austin, the 23-year-old big man, was a projected first-round pick in the 2014 NBA draft until the diagnosis of a genetic heart condition halted his career.
But, given clearance to play, he is rebuilding in the Gilas set-up under Chot Reyes.
He averaged 18.6 points and 13.6 rebounds in his five games for Chooks-to-Go at the tournament in China, hitting 16 and 11 in the 86-70 loss to China Kashgar.
Austin not only showed his basketball skills; his ability to come into a new set-up and instantly thrive said plenty about his character.
Coach Reyes, who is looking for a younger option to take over from Blatche as Philippines’ naturalised player, said recently he had been monitoring Austin for years.
And the 7ft 1in centre’s performances in Chenzhou are merely likely to have reinforced the good things Reyes knew about his game.
In the quarter-final itself, Chooks-to-Go were always playing catch-up against China Kashgar – who are also known as Chinese Basketball Association champions Xinjiang Flying Tigers.
They drew level at 39-39 at one point in the second quarter – but otherwise Kashgar led from start to finish.
With Blatche, who has managed less than 10 minutes on-court action at the tournament, again sitting out, fellow import Darius Adams hit 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
The 28-year-old – who went undrafted in the NBA in 2011 – had good support from Mugedaer Xirelijiang, who hit 20 points.
FIBA Asia Champions Cup – quarter-final results
Petrochimi (Iran) 97 Taipei Dacin Tigers (Taiwan) 80
BC Astana (Kazakhstan) 83 Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai (UAE) 53
China Kashgar (China) 86 Chooks-to-Go (Philippines) 70
Al-Riyadi (Lebanon) 110 Mono Vampire (Thailand) 73