ANDRAY Blatche showed just a glimpse of his old form in Gilas Pilipinas’ rousing victory over Iran in the second of their two-game scrimmage this week as part the teams’ preparations for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
But come the ‘Final Dance’, expect the 6-foot-11 naturalized player to be in ‘total tip-top shape’ as he tries to lead the Philippines back to the Olympics for the first time since the 1972 Summer Games in Munich.
Rory Jones, the personal trainer of the former NBA player, said the three-week European training camp the national team will undergo is just perfect for Blatche to get in the best of shape in time for the July 5-10 tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“We’re going to Greece, Turkey, and Italy, and he’s gonna get a chance to get his body in total tip-top shape,” said Jones before leaving with the entire Gilas squad for Greece on Friday night.
“Come July, he’s gonna be in excellent shape and ready to get this go.”
Jones disclosed that unlike last August when Blatche came over a little bit out of shape for the Fiba Asia Men’s Championship in Changsha, China, the 29-year-old New York native was a lot fit this time when he arrived in the country late last month.
A former guard at University of Toledo, Jones said Blatche only rested for a month before starting to work out on his own for his stint with Gilas.
"The last time he was dealing with issues with his mother and he didn’t pick up a basketball for months,” said Jones, a cousin of former NBA player Javalee McGee.
“This time he only took a month off and then we got to the gym for four weeks and then we’ve been doing mountain climbing and working out individual skills work. He was all fine with his body.”
And it readily showed in the game against Iran, where the former Washington and Brooklyn big man led Gilas with his 20-point and 11-rebound output. His three-point play in the waning moments helped the national team seal an 81-70 win over the three-time Fiba-Asia champions.
Jones, who came over together with Blatche’s boyhood friend Bryan Extra, said the naturalized player is just glad to be playing ‘at home’ especially during next month’s qualifier when he’ll be showing his wares for the first time in front of a partisan crowd at the MOA Arena.
“He’s in a really good place right now, just glad we’re in Manila,” said Jones, who was also with Blatche in Spain during the Fiba World Cup in 2014 and in Changsha, China for the Fiba-Asia meet last year.
“We really like Manila. It’s really working out well for us.”