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Blatche joins Gilas in Asian elims

Andray Blatche. File

MANILA, Philippines — After his absence in the FIBA Asia Cup, Andray Blatche will again don the national tricolors as Gilas Pilipinas starts its campaign in the Asian World Cup home-and-away qualifying series versus Japan on Nov. 24 in Tokyo then against Chinese Taipei on Nov. 27 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

National coach Chot Reyes posted on his Twitter account that the 6-foot-11 Filipino naturalized player will fly in on Nov. 12 to join the Gilas training camp that opened Friday night at the Meralco Gym.

The first day of training drew a good attendance – a mix of players from the opposing blocs in a smoldering feud within the PBA board over the tenure of PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa.

And it’s a relief to the Gilas management, the coaching staff and Filipino basketball fans that the national team is insulated from the crisis gripping the PBA at the moment.

“Thank you team owners and Gilas players. For flag and country,” said Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio on his Instagram post accompanied by a photo of the national coach addressing the pool members in their first meeting.

Earlier Friday, San Miguel Beer, Barangay Ginebra, Star, GlobalPort and Kia Picanto, teams opposed on the move of the majority group in the board, promised to continue to make available their players to the national team for the coming “WC” qualifiers.

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June Mar Fajardo of SMB, Japeth Aguilar of Ginebra and Jio Jalalon of Star did show up at the start of the training. Jalalon, however, just watched the training as he’s nursing a lateral collateral ligament injury.

Also present were Alaska’s Calvin Abueva and Carl Bryan Cruz, Rain or Shine’s Raymond Almazan and Gabe Norwood, Blackwater’s Allein Maliksi and Mac Belo, TNT’s Jayson Castro, RR Pogoy and Troy Rosario, and Phoenix’s Matthew Wright.

Reyes said Terrence Romeo of GlobalPort and Kiefer Ravena were not around as they’re out of town. NLEX’s Kevin Alas showed up on the second day of practice yesterday.

From these 16 PBA players plus Blatche, Reyes could well form a highly competitive team versus the Japanese and the Taiwanese in the initial window of the Asian World Cup qualifiers that will run all the way to 2019.

Members of the Gilas SEABA champion team are all in the pool. They are Blatche, Fajardo, Aguilar, Almazan, Rosario, Castro, Pogoy, Abueva, Romeo, Jalalon, Wright and Maliksi.

Practically the same group composed the Gilas team in the succeeding FIBA Asia Cup except for Blatche and Maliksi who were substituted by Christian Standhardinger and Cruz.

Team Phl can play different lineups in the several windows of the “WC” qualifiers.

Aside from Japan and Chinese Taipei, Team Phl also plays world power Australia in their group.

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