AS he was answering questions in the middle of a press conference on Tuesday night, Andray Blatche heard one of the smartphones that were recording his interview ring. He picked it up and jokingly answered the call.
“Kumusta?” Blatche, who has been in the Philippines for three days, said slowly, trying his best tagalog impersonation as he drew laughter from the media.
He may have tried to lighten the mood at first, but the 27-year-old American also made it known how serious he is in trying to blend in not just with his Gilas Pilipinas teammates but also with the rest of the people in a country where he is bound to become a naturalized citizen.
Tasked to boost a national side that will be participating in the Fiba World Cup in Spain in August, Blatche said Filipinos can expect the best from him.
“I kind of owe it the people that worked very hard to get me in this position.”
Agreeing to represent a country where basketball is a religion was also easy.
“It wasn’t a tough decision,” Blatche said. “The opportunity to play for a country like the Philippines is something you could only wish for. I’m very thankful to have that opportunity.”
The 6-foot-11 slotman is not only going to provide ceiling, but also his world-class quality to Gilas, having normed 11.2 points, 5.3 boards, 1.5 assists, and one steal in 22.2 minutes last NBA season with the Brooklyn Nets.
“I’m going to play my game, come out and be an offensive threat, bring energy on the floor, and protect the paint, create shots for my teammates,” he said. “I hear we have amazing shooters on our team.”
In Spain, he will be up against fellow NBA players. But that will hardly be a challenge for the NBA veteran.
“I’ve been playing against NBA players for the last few years of my life,” Blatche said. “So I feel like it’s not going to be a hard adjustment for me.”
Blatche candidly said he cannot yet compare the brand of NBA basketball to international play. But he has started to have a feel for the ball used in Fiba competition.
“He asked for the Molten ball to familiarize himself back there in the States on his own,” Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director Sonny Barrios said. “That’s how serious he is with this.”
After the conference, Blatche was set to return to the US on Tuesday night.
“Suh-lah-mat,” Blatche concluded.