FOR now, Andray Blatche will continue manning the fort for Gilas Pilipinas.
With the qualifier for the 2019 World Cup set to start two weeks from now, Gilas is once again leaning on old reliable Blatche to get the job done just like he did in the 2014 Fiba World Cup and, most recently, the Seaba Championships in Manila.
Gilas has considered a number of options for the lone spot allotted for naturalized players under Fiba rules, among them Fil-German Christian Standhardinger, who took Blatche's place in the Fiba Asia Cup in Lebanon, and Isaiah Austin, who reinforced Chooks to Go in the Fiba Asia Champions Cup in Chenzhou, China two months ago.
Standhardinger has since been made the top pick in the PBA Rookie Draft by San Miguel Beer and is currently under contract to play for Hong Kong Eastern in the ABL while Austin has gone back to the US after the short stint with Gilas.
“Nothing specific yet," was the curt reply of Gilas team manager Butch Antonio when asked about any plan the team may have for the lanky, 24-year-old big man.
The 7-foot-1 Baylor University alumnus gave a good account of himself during his lone stint with Gilas but so far, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) has not started any move to naturalize him or any player for that matter.
"We have not begun the tedious and difficult process of naturalizing anyone new. Our current naturalized player is (still) Andre Blatche," said SBP vice-chairman Robbie Puno.
The former Antipolo City representative spearheaded the naturalization of Marcus Douthit and Blatche, but he admitted that no decision has been made on potential candidates.
"No final decision made on that," Puno said.
That shouldn't pose a problem for now since the 6-foot-11 Blatche has been made available even if the 2017-18 season of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) is ongoing.
Blatche plays for defending CBA champion Xinjiang Flying Tigers, but national coach Chot Reyes has assured the naturalized player will arrive in the country on Nov. 12 to join Gilas in its buildup for games against Japan on Nov. 24 and Chinese-Taipei on Nov. 27.