It’s better late than never for Gilas Pilipinas’s naturalized player Andray Blatche, who finally arrived in the Philippines days after he was expected by coach Chot Reyes.
What greeted the 2.10m big man fresh from winning his first Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) title, however, were many of his old teammates who were but all too happy to see their “big brother” back in the fold. Blatche, for his part, was glad to be back as well.
“I missed this a lot,” he told local media. “It’s good to see of a lot familiar faces, friends and coaches again.”
Blatche barely had time to rest after his long travel from the US East Coast to tropical Manila, going straight to the training session with Gilas Pilipi-nas’s first 2017 iteration before even checking his jet lag. It was not long be-fore the former NBA player noticed some marked im-provements from the national team’s stalwarts.
“I see Japeth Aguilar and June Mar Fajardo have gotten a hell of a lot better,” he cited.
Blatche also met some new faces with whom he’ll do battle in the SEABA Championship 2017 that begins this Friday. Need-less to say, he was im-pressed with Gilas’s new blood.
“I see we have a lot of great shooters,” he said. “And that new tall kid over there, he brings a lot of energy and outside shooting.”
The former Washington Wizard and Brooklyn Net was talking about first time Gilas Pilipinas players Matthew Wright, Allein Maliksi, RR Pogoy and Raymond Almazan – all of whom are expected to be heavy contributors despite primarily being support players to the likes of Blatche, Aguilar, Fajardo, Terrence Romeo, Calvin Abueva and Jayson Castro.
Blatche has very limited time to try and get re-acquainted with his surroundings, coach Chot Reyes’s system, and his new teammates, but he is confident that once they all settle down, things will roll for the Filipino squad, who are aiming for no less than the SEABA crown, which will give them passage to the FIBA Asia Cup 2017 and, more importantly, seal their slot in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Qualifiers.
“We got a couple more days to go before the tournament starts, but we’ll come out with a win, nothing less,” he proclaimed. “As long as we do our job, we will be successful.” the naturalized center earlier stated during the team’s training sessions.