GILAS Pilipinas is looking to bring in Andray Blatche by the first week of February in an effort to assure that he will be in shape for the national team's showdown with Australia in the FIBA World Cup qualifier.
Gilas team manager Butch Antonio said he's in constant communication with Blatche's manager who promised to have the talented naturalized player in the country at least three weeks before the Feb. 22 game against the Boomers in Melbourne.
"We've already talked about the need to have Andre here by the first week of February when we'll have our daily practices. And they said yes," said Antonio shortly after Gilas concluded its third straight Monday-only practice at the Meralco gym.
Antonio admitted Blatche wasn’t 100 percent in shape during the first window of the qualifier against Japan and Chinese Taipei, although Gilas won both games to share the top of Group B with the Aussies at 2-0.
“We don’t want him to come over here just days or a week before the Australia game, and then tsaka pa lang siyang magpapakundisyon,” said Antonio. “That’s why as much as possible dapat by the first week of February he’ll already be here.”
Several times in the past, Blatche came over not really in the best of shape that earned the ire of both Reyes and former Gilas coach Tab Baldwin.
Yet, according to Antonio, Reyes always make it a point to stress how the 30-year-old Blatche is the perfect naturalized player fit for the national team.
“Coach Chot’s trust in him has always been there, kahit na ilang beses na siyang dumating not really in shape,” said the Gilas official. “Kaya sana naman, they will also do their end of the bargain. Hopefully, by early February, he’ll be here already so he can be in the best shape possible.”
Antonio said Blatche has already recovered from an early injury that kept him from seeing action with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA).