DESPITE an unpleasant experience in his last Gilas Pilipinas stint, Andray Blatche remains committed to playing for the Philippine national team in the series of qualifiers for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
Gilas team manager Butch Antonio personally talked with the naturalized player prior to his departure shortly after Gilas bowed out of contention in the recent Manila Olympic Qualifying Tournament, and the 29-year-old New Yorker assured he’ll always be on call for the national side.
“We’re having a friendly chat before he left to the US after the OQT and he’s saying, “I’ll be back. Just let me know when you need me,’” said Antonio, quoting the NBA veteran.
“That says a lot about his commitment to Gilas,” Antonio added.
Two years since he was naturalized and started suiting up for the national team beginning with the 2014 Fiba World Cup in Spain, the former NBA player has become accustomed to the Filipino way of life, according to Antonio.
“He actually enjoys it here,” said the longtime basketball official. “And he loves his teammates (very much).”
One Gilas insider even disclosed Blatche had planned to have a house here in the country especially had the national team made it all the way to the Rio Olympics.
Unfortunately, it didn’t materialize. Gilas lost back-to-back games against France and New Zealand and failed to advance in the semis of the qualifiers.
Antonio disclosed having talked to Blatche about his plans of going back and playing in the NBA again just before leaving the country.
The Gilas official acknowledged such scenario could also pose schedule problems with the national team's participation in the World Cup qualifiers if and when the naturalized big man manage to suit up anew in the world’s biggest basketball stage.
Blatche is currently under contract with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA).
“Regardless of where he plays, be it in the NBA or CBA, medyo may conflict talaga with his schedule and the windows for the qualifiers,” Antonio acknowledged.
“But it would really be better if he stays in the CBA dahil mas malapit ang China dito sa atin.”
Gilas however, supports Blatche in his bid to make it back to the NBA.
“He still wants to get back to the NBA and we’re supportive of that,” said the Gilas team manager.