Chot Reyes leaps to Blatche's defense, says naturalized big man remains 'our guy'
Andray Blatche atones for his erratic performance against Australia with a double-double in Gilas' win over Japan on Sunday night. Jerome Ascano

WHATEVER people say, Andray Blatche remains ‘the guy’ for Gilas.

Coach Chot Reyes reiterated his support behind the national team’s talented naturalized player after an inconsistent showing in the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup qualifiers.

Blatche topscored for Gilas in its 89-84 win over Japan on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena, but drew criticism anew after an erratic performance in an 84-68 loss to Australia last Thursday in Melbourne.

But Reyes stressed Blatche’s importance to Gilas is simply not measured by statistics alone.

“His value is always been beyond numbers and I know he got a lot of flak the last game,” said the Gilas coach in the post-game presser.

“I’m just telling everybody that we’re taking a look at everything, but Andray is our guy.”

Blatche was not spectacular against the Japanese, but effective enough to help Gilas hold off a spirited endgame rally by the visiting team. The former NBA player finished with a team-high 18 points and 16 rebounds, but committed five of the Filipinos’ 15 turnovers.

His numbers were less than impressive in the team’s loss to the Boomers, where he had eight points and eight rebounds while going 3-of-11 from the floor.

Reyes though explained, Blatche’s primary assignment against the Aussies was to limit their top player Daniel Kickert, which he did by holding the 34-year-old big man to just five points after averaging close to 20 points on a high 74 percent shooting from the three-point line.

“So those of you who understands basketball, you will see that it’s not points only,” said the Gilas coach. “There’s a lot of value.”

Without Blatche around, Reyes believes Gilas could have lost by an even bigger margin against the Boomers.

“You can ask Kiefer,” said Reyes, pointing to young Gilas guard Kiefer Ravena who was seated beside him. “I don’t think we can play a team like Australia if we didn’t have Andray and we could have lost by 30 points easily. You can quote me on that.

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“So I hope that puts to rest all this talk about Andray, for those of you who really know his value,” added the Gilas coach. “Andray makes us competitive regardless of what his numbers or what the stats show.”

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