NATIONAL coach Yeng Guiao stressed the need for a big man with 'wide international experience' prompted the recall of Andray Blatche to the Team Pilipinas fold heading to the final window of the Fiba World Cup Asian qualifiers in February.
The 32-year-old Blatche announced his return to the Philippine team after being left out in the fifth window of the qualifiers, where losses to Kazakhstan and Iran left the national squad in a make-or-break situation as they play Qatar and Kazakhstan on the road in February.
“We discussed that with the SBP [Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas] leadership. We made some evaluations after our last window and we felt that we really need a big man who can have some dominating presence," Guiao said on Saturday.
"Nandoon naman si June Mar (Fajardo) but we need somebody of his experience, with NBA experience and a lot of international games. ‘Yun ’yung kulang natin,” he added.
Although the local big men led by Fajardo did well in two games at home against Kazakhstan and Iran, Guiao said Blatche will be able to force more double teams against the defense, opening up shooters that will be needed for the crucial stretch of the qualification.
“Napansin namin ‘yun nung huling laro natin. Although si June Mar was able to contribute, we need somebody who can demand a double team so that we can get our shooters going. It was decided to get him back,” said Guiao.
Gilas is in fourth place in Group F with a 5-5 card, trailing Japan, which holds a 6-4 card.
Only the top three teams in Group E and F and the best fourth placer will advance to the 2019 Fiba Basketball World Cup.
Guiao, however, said at the moment, Blatche's return for the final window isn't cast in stone as he still has to compete for a spot in the team.
“Hindi pa rin (shoo-in) kasi one thing we are looking at is what kind of shape he is in. Baka mamaya gusto nga natin siyang kunin, tapos 350 pounds pala siya dito. We just want to be able to assess him physically, what kind of shape he is in, what kind of motivation he is in, then we can make that decision,” said Guiao.
Guiao though said the news he is getting is that Blatche is in shape.
“May nabalitaan ako through the manager that he is in shape. [But] you can only be sure when you see him,” said Guiao.
Guiao reiterated Blatche has always been a part of the team, despite the naturalized player missing out on the Final 12 roster during the previous window of the Fiba Basketball World Cup.
“He was in consideration naman from the beginning. Sabi ko nga, we just want to see how our big man will fare in a situation where we can have June Mar, Greg [Slaughter], Japeth [Aguilar] together.
“But I guess we have to learn our lessons that we still need somebody dominating in the middle,” said Guiao.