ANDRAY Blatche is embracing Gilas Pilipinas’ underdog situation in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament next month at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Filipino dribblers are facing tremendous odds in their quest for a berth in the Rio Olympics, taking on world contenders France and New Zealand in the first round, before battling even tougher competition if they make it through the knockout stage of the Manila leg of the qualifiers from July 5 to 10.
But Blatche is convinced Gilas can thrive in that disadvantaged role, even believing it will only augur well for the squad.
“There’s nothing wrong with being the underdog. It takes a bit of pressure off of us,” the naturalized Filipino center said on Sunday. “It allows us to go out there and play our game comfortably and not to be so stressed out there.”
Gilas is no stranger to being underdogs, being in that same role in the 2014 Fiba World Cup, where the Nationals threatened to take down a handful of world powerhouses to win the hearts of every fan who watched the games.
Blatche is confident the national team will enter the OQT having the same mindset.
“I believe we’re going to go out there with a lot of fight, a lot of heart and I really think we have a good chance,” the NBA veteran said as he paid a visit to The Arena in San Juan where he watched preseason collegiate action in the Filoil Flying V Premier Cup.
Blatche is unfazed of taking on France, possibly led by Tony Parker and Nicolas Batum, in the opener on July 5 as Gilas plays in front of the home crowd.
“That’s not on my mind. We’re (at) home. We have everyone behind rooting for us,” the 6-foot-11 slotman said. “I feel like we have the ability to shock a lot of people.”
“The pressure’s not on us, the pressure’s on them,” he added.