CHANGSHA, China – The Philippines have had Japan’s number the last few times these two old rival teams met.
And that’s without naturalized player Anday Blatche yet.
On Sunday, the NBA veteran will be on board when Gilas Pilipinas takes on Japan at the start of the second round preliminary of the 28th Fiba Asia Championship here.
The presence of Blatche in a Gilas uniform is not lost on Japanese star player Yuta Tabuse, who believes the Filipinos even become more formidable with the former Brooklyn Net around.
“You guys are such a good team,” he said on Saturday when the two-week tournament took a break. “Blatche is coming back and you’ll do much better than in the Jones Cup. So, we’ll just try our best.”
Even without Blatche, the Filipinos proceeded to rout Tabuse and the Japanese, 75-60, in the Jones Cup just last month, where Gilas ended up winning the silver medal with a 6-2 record.
Japan on the other hand, finished with a 2-6 slate for eight place.
The return match will also feature the showdown between the 34-year-old Tabuse, who briefly played for the Phoenix Suns, and rising Gilas star Terrence Romeo, who torched the opposition with 16 big points.
Tabuse, the first and only Japanese-born player to suit up in the NBA, said he’s looking forward to his match-up with the prolific 23-year-old Filipino after being held to just six points in the team’s 15-point loss to Gilas in Taipei.
“He’s such a good player. I’m looking forward to playing against him,” added the 5-foot-9 point guard.