DRAY will always be Dray and his shoes are definitely huge ones to fill for Giilas Pilipinas in the coming FIBA Asia Cup.
For Gabe Norwood, Andray Blatche’s absence meant other guys in the national team need to step in and do their thing.
“There’s a lot of guys out there,” said Norwood on Tuesday, a day after coach Chot Reyes formally announced the team lineup for the August 8 to 20 joust in Beirut, Lebanon that will be without its most dominant player.
The big guard of Rain or Shine wouldn’t single out a particular player, but believes Gilas will remain competitive and a force to be reckoned with in a tournament where the country finished runner-up during its last two editions in Manila (2013) and Changsha (2015).
“If not, why play?” he said. “The fact that we’re there, we’re there to win.”
As in previous campaigns, speed and quickness are the biggest weapons the nationals will have in their arsenal.
“I think its gonna be forever consistent for us is speed,” he pointed out. “That’s always gonna be our advantage and that’s all we have to do to win.”
Norwood said even big man June Mar Fajardo, who many perceived is slow for his height, is actually quick for his size.
“He’s not a slow guy, he gets up and moves (just like everybody else),” said the George Mason University alum, who has been with the national team since 2007.
Gilas' chances would have been better if Blatche, 30, is around. But it is what it is, and Norwood isn’t taking it against the naturalized player for choosing not to suit up for the national team this time.
He added Blatche has done his part for the country in past international competitions, including the Fiba World Cup in 2014 and the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament last year.
“Dray represented the country well and I think he put on a show every time he steps on the court,” said the new dad.
“It’s tough to go out there and battle without him, but I wish him the best whatever he’s planning,” Norwood added of the former NBA player.
Fil-German Christian Standhardinger will take the place of Blatche and joins Norwood, Fajardo, Jayson Castro, Terrence Romeo, Jio Jalalon, Roger Pogoy, Matthew Wright, Calvin Abueva, Japeth Aguilar, Raymond Almazan, and Carl Bryan Cruz as part of the Gilas Final 12 to the FIBA Asia Cup.