GOOD vibes is set to dawn on Gilas Pilipinas over the weekend - exactly what it needed in the wake of the run of bad luck that has hit the team the past week.
Naturalized player Andray Blatche will be arriving late Friday night in the country to finally train with the national squad that is currently deep in preparation for the Manila leg of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Blatche was originally set to arrive last May 15, but asked the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) to postpone the trip for two more weeks as he stayed in his Atlanta home to be with his ailing mother, who’s stricken with cancer and recently undergone surgery.
This will be the first time the former NBA stalwart will reconnect with his Gilas teammates since the Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship in Changsha, China last year, where the national squad finished runner-up to China to earn a spot in the three Olympic qualifiers to be held simultaneously this July for the remaining berths in the Rio De Janeiro Games.
Blatche arrival should serve as good news to a Gilas side that’s been hampered with players’ withdrawal of late due to injuries.
Already, three had begged off in Paul Lee, Greg Slaughter, and Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, while gunner Jeff Chan and big man June Mar Fajardo didn’t practice on Thursday owing to a hurting groin and knee, respectively.
Gilas team manager Butch Antonio said the handlers of Blatche gave the assurance the naturalized player will be in playing shape upon his arrival in Manila.
“He’s in shape, yung ang sabi sa amin ng handlers niya. Of course, we’ll see that when he arrives,” said Antonio, also director for international affairs by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), shortly before leaving for Bangkok to be with the Gilas cadets for the 5th Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) Cup.
“Ang question naman is if he’s in shape like when he played in the (2014) Fiba World Cup.”
The world championship served as Blatche’s initiation with Gilas, one which saw him play according to his potential during the two-week long meet, where the Filipinos gave powerhouse teams such as Croatia, Argentina, Greece, and Puerto Rico a run for their money while beating Senegal.
The native of New York is coming off a stint with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), where he averaged 22.3 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game.
Blatche is expected to rejoin Gilas when it resumes practice on Saturday at the Kerry gym inside the new Shangri-La Hotel at the Fort.