Blatche due early June for Gilas' World Cup qualifying bid
MANILA, Philippines – Filipino naturalized player Andray Blatche, free from any commitment with the Chinese league on its break, is flying in from the US on the first week of June to once again lead Gilas Pilipinas in their games versus Chinese Taipei and Australia in the third window of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers.
“Our agreement is first week of June, but make it plus or minus. Alam naman natin na si Andray,” said Gilas team manager Butch Antonio.
In his previous stints with Gilas, Blatche didn’t come at the agreed time.
But the most important is his commitment to continue to help Team Philippines to achieve its cherished goal of making the 2019 World Cup in China.
Gilas Pilipinas clashes with Chinese Taipei in Taiwan on June 29 then closes its campaign in the first round of group plays by hosting Team Australia at the Philippine Arena on July 2.
With a 3-1 mark, the Nationals are assured of a spot in the next round versus the top three from among Iran, Qatar, Kazakhstan and Iraq. Team Phl, however, must repeat versus Chinese Taipei and get back at Australia to improve its carry-over slate.
The Filipinos topped the Taiwanese, 90-83, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Nov. 27 then dropped a 68-84 loss against the Aussies in Melbourne on Feb. 22. Gilas has swept its home and away games versus Japan for its 3-1 card.
The PBA will stop play from June 25 to July 3 to give way to Gilas’ games versus Taipei and Australia.
Gilas’ concern is how to get the players together in practices since they have separate practices and games to attend with their mother ball clubs up to June 24.
“Most probably, we would have all the players together when we’re in Taipei already,” said Antonio of their same situation when they faced the Aussies in Melbourne.
Gilas has started its Monday practices three nights ago but there were a lot of no-shows. Practicing with those present were some Gilas cadets.
Playing for the Smart National Team in the ongoing All-Star festivities are June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, Troy Rosario, Calvin Abueva, Carl Bryan Cruz, Gabe Norwood, Allein Maliksi, RR Pogoy, Kiefer Ravena, Terrence Romeo, Jayson Castro, Jio Jalalon and Mac Belo.