TEAM Pilipinas will be hard-pressed to cram on its practices for the FIBA World Cup qualifier once Andray Blatche arrives in the country this Friday.
Coach Yeng Guiao disclosed the 6-foot-11 Blatche will only be able to join the team for a total of 10 days as the naturalized player will return back to China by Feb. 11 to reunite with his mother ballclub, the Tianjin Gold Lions, who are currently campaigning in the Northern Division of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA).
Guiao bared plans of practicing thrice a week – perhaps even twice a day – just to maximize Blatche’s brief stay to train with the national team.
Once the naturalized player leaves for China, Blatche wouldn’t connect with Team Pilipinas again until he joins the Filipinos in Qatar by Feb. 16.
“Si Blatche darating siya ng Feb. 1 and aalis siya ng Feb. 11, so within that time we have to squeeze in as much time as we can play together,” said the national coach shortly after the team concluded its Monday night practice at the Meralco gym.
Guiao said the team is set to play Alab Pilipinas in a tune-up match with Blatche around, but other than that, no other competitive games are scheduled ahead of the national squad until the former NBA player comes back to China as per the arrangement with his mother team.
“Magkikita na kami sa Qatar na dahil balalik nga siya (Blatche) ng China. So we’re really pressed for time and we’re pressed for opportunities to play some other teams,” added Guiao.
“We don’t want to play the local Qatar teams because we’re just going to be scouted. So I think we just have to do everything here. Kailangan paghandaan namin lahat dito pa lang.”
If there’s one consolation, Guiao would tend to believe Blatche is currently in a good playing condition since being back in the CBA.
“He’s playing in China so malamang fit naman siya,” said the national mentor.
Team Pilipinas will play Qatar on Feb. 21 and then travel to Kazakhstan for its game against the home team on Feb. 24 for the final windwo of the qualifier.