ANDRAY Blatche has come to terms with Gilas Pilipinas on a new deal and will soon join the national team’s preparation for the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament set in July.
Gilas Pilipinas team manager Butch Antonio confirmed on Monday the naturalized Filipino has formally agreed to spearhead the national team's quest for an Olympic slot in the July qualifying tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Last month, Antonio said the deal between Blatche and the country’s basketball federation Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas is almost done, and only minor kinks were being ironed out.
The naturalized player's new deal will extend all the way to the Rio Summer Games should Gilas tab the only Olympic berth up for grabs in the July 5-10 among six teams in Manila.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Antonio, who is also deputy executive director of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), said they expect the 29-year-old NBA veteran to arrive in the Philippines on May 15 to join Gilas' buildup for the qualifier.
“He’s signed up already. Right now, we are looking at May 15 (for his arrival),” said Antonio.
The signing of Blatche is a major boost to Gilas Pilipinas’ campaign in the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament, where the hosts are bracketed with France and New Zealand in Group B.
The other bracket is made up of Turkey, Senegal, Canada.
The Manila qualifier will mark the first time the 6-10 former Brooklyn Net will play before Filipino fans in an international tournament since joining Gilas ahead of the 2014 Fiba World Cup in Spain.
Blatche, who plays as an import for the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the Chinese league, last saw action for the national team in the 2015 Fiba-Asia Championship in Changsha, China.