RANIDEL De Ocampo hopes Andray Blatche will embrace the Philippines, its people and its culture just like what Marcus Douthit has done in his many years as a naturalized player for the national basketball team.
Speaking on the eve of the Brooklyn Nets cager’s visit to the country, De Ocampo aired the hope that Blatche will become as Pinoy as Douthit when he finally gets his naturalization papers in order to be eligible to suit up for Gilas Pilipinas.
“’Yung mga ginawa ni Marcus Douthit, magawa rin sana niya para maging pusong Pinoy siya,” said De Ocampo during the announcement of the lineups in the Master Game Face Challenge on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Music Hall.
Blatche's naturalized papers are only awaiting the signature of President Aquino, and will likely take the place of Douthit in the Fiba-World Cup and the Asian Games in Incheon once he becomes eligible.
One one naturalized player is allowed per country in Fiba-sanctioned tournaments.
But more than the talent upgrade, De Ocampo said he hopes Blatche will also have the same attitude as Douthit, who has embraced the Filipino culture and endeared himself to Filipino fans in his many years staying in the Philippines with his family.
“Si Blatche, sana magtagal siya dito,” said De Ocampo. “Sana makilala niya mabuti ‘yung mga Pilipino para malaman niya kung sino ang pinaglalaban niya sa basketball.
"Sana tanggapin niya ang laro, ipaglaban niya ang bansa natin, at isapuso niya at i-embrace ‘yung pagiging Pilipino niya. Sana ipaglaban niya tayo.”
Nevertheless, De Ocampo believes that Blatche is capable and willing to do the things Douthit has done for Gilas.
“Tingin ko naman, willing siya,” said De Ocampo of Blatche. “Kailangan sa practice, makita sa ensayo kung papaano siya lalaban para sa mga Pinoy at sa bansa natin. Sana ma-adopt niya.”
Meanwhile, Rain or Shine cager Jeff Chan looks forward to seeing the NBA player in practice early in the Gilas Pilipinas’ preparation for the World Cup.
“Mas maganda na maaga siya dumating para mapag-aralan din niya ‘yung system ni coach Chot (Reyes), and at the same time, makasama kami,” Chan said.
Jimmy Alapag, meantime, said Blatche is a perfect fit for Reyes’ dribble-drive system.
“I haven’t played with him but just by watching him with the Brooklyn Nets, obviously his size, he is a very skilled big guy. So I think with coach Chot’s dribble drive, he will be comfortable with that system.” said Alapag.