Blatche committed to reinforce Gilas in Olympic qualifier

(Philstar.com) - October 15, 2015 - 10:09pm

MANILA, Philippines -- Other than the 17 PBA players named to the Gilas Pilipinas pool this week, naturalized player Andray Blatche has assured Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas that he will make himself available in Olympic qualifying tournament in July 2016.

SBP deputy director for international affairs Butch Antonio said the former Brooklyn Nets big man gave his word that he will reinforce Gilas just before they parted ways after the national team’s silver-medal finish in the recent Fiba-Asia men’s championships in Changsa, China.

“Yes (Blatche gave his assurance) before he left (for the U.S.). He said if it (Gilas joins the Olympic qualifying tournament) happens, we just let him know. He’s dedicated to us,” Antonio told Philstar.com on Friday.

Blatche, who came in overweight for during Gilas’ training camp, managed to overcome prostatitis and the death of a family member, helping Gilas to a second straight runner-up finish in the Fiba-Asia men’s championships in Changsa, China last month.

The 6-foot-10 Blatche averaged 17.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists in the Asian championships, though Gilas’ second-place finish failed to earn the country an automatic berth in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Instead, the Philippines will have to go through the qualifying tournament where the competition is expected to be a lot tougher due to the presence of other nations from the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia-Oceania.

Still, Gilas, through the support of the PBA, will finally get the help it needs after the pro league’s board agreed to lend 17 of its top players to form the national pool.

Reigning PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo, who failed to play in the Changa tournament due to injuries on both feet, along with Barangay Ginebra youthful slotman Greg Slaughter banners the17-man national pool, which will be handled by Gilas coach Tab Baldwin.

Other members in the pool include LA Tenorio, Ian Sangalang, Japeth Aguilar and Marcio Lassiter, along with Rain or Shine gunners Paul Lee and Jeff Chan and Talk ‘N Text defense specialist Ryan Reyes.

Meanwhile, the holdovers from the silver-medal Gilas 3.0 national team in the recent Fiba-Asia men’s championships in Changsa are Marc Pingris, Matt Ganuelas Rosser, Troy Rosario, Calvin Abueva, Gabe Norwood, Ranidel de Ocampo, Jayson Castro and Terrence Romeo.

Antonio said Baldwin has been tasked to come up with the training preparations, which will start on November through its Monday practices.

“We’re making plans for that already (Monday practices). Then hahanapan mo ng windows for more practices, and maybe, take advantage of breaks (in PBA schedule),” said Antonio.

ACIRC AFRICA AND ASIA-OCEANIA ANDRAY BLATCHE BARANGAY GINEBRA BROOKLYN NETS BUTCH ANTONIO CALVIN ABUEVA CHANGSA FIBA-ASIA GABE NORWOOD GILAS
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