THE past was hardly mentioned, but Al Panlilio, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president, could tell by just listening to Andray Blatche how the naturalized player is eager to make up for lost time.
On Tuesday, the country’s top basketball official talked with the former NBA player for the first time since that infamous Philippine Arena brawl forced Blatche to miss two crucial windows in Team Pilipinas’ bid for a berth in this year’s FIBA World Cup.
It was a like a meeting between two long-lost brothers, who did not bother to discuss whatever transpired in the not-so-distant past, but instead talked about the present and the future that awaits the national team once its campaign in the qualifiers is over.
Just by paying attention to what the 6-foot-11 Blatche had said assured Panlilio of how committed he is to helping the national team make it back to the world stage notwithstanding the hard circumstances.
“We talked about the next two games and its implication, for wins in the two games of the last window, against Qatar and Kazakhstan. We are aligned in this objective and Andray is committed to achieve our goal of making the FIBA World Cup in China,” said Panlilio.
The SBP president personally visited Blatche at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel on Chinese New Year just hours before Team Pilipinas held its early evening practice at the Meralco gym.
“He looks fit and in good shape,” he said of the Syracuse, New York native.
It was a lively and positive conversation between the two that hardly delved on the ‘what ifs.’
“We didn’t discuss the past. We are focused on this next window and win both games,” recalled Panlilio of his talk with the 32-year-old Blatche.
Even before Blatche was recalled for national duty, the SBP has been monitoring his plays in the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association) with the Tianjin Golden Lions.
“I’ve been monitoring his games in China and he is in good basketball shape. I am personally pleased with what I saw and his preparation for his tour of duty is very encouraging,” said Panlilio.
“I am confident that with Andray on board, the much-needed victories are achievable.”