IT seemed there was nothing bothering Andray Blatche and JC Intal considering how they conducted themselves in Gilas Pilipinas practice on Thursday morning as they trained as usual and even smiled when they obliged photo requests from waiting fans afterward at the Hoops Center.
But deep inside, the national team standouts are grieving as they recently lost loved ones, with Blatche’s uncle Steve passing away as well as JC’s father-in-law, Chito.
Still, they show up in practice and prove their desire to play for the country.
They Said It!
“JC Intal still went to practice despite the lowered chances of being included in the Final 12 due to Clarkson's entry, and despite the passing of an in-law. Kudos to him." - dugong
“They all know there are a lot of sacrifices to be made,” Gilas coach Tab Baldwin said in a short chat with Spin.ph after practice. “Now, family tragedies come up and you got to give them every moment they need, take care of their of families and be with their families.”
“But they continue to make an effort to be here even though we know their minds are not a hundred percent here,” he added.
Baldwin said Blatche, who declined an interview, is also concerned about his ailing mother.
“Dray’s mother hasn’t been very well as well and now she loses her brother,” the Gilas coach said. “Dray’s very worried about his mother, but he keeps fighting.”
“JC, he’s so willing and working so hard, but you can see that he’s distracted,” he added. “And who wouldn’t be?
“But they love their country and they love playing for their country,” Baldwin continued. “They’re not here for personal gain. That’s why I respect and admire them so much.”
Intal has been juggling his time between attending to his wife Bianca and national duty.
“It’s a hard time for our family, especially for my wife,” the Barako Bull star said. “But these are things na wala tayong control and that’s a problem we cannot solve, so we’re just praying for peace.”
They Said It!
“We must not force somebody to play for Gilas if they don't want, whether injured or not. Let us just focus on the current players who are preparing to represent us in international competition." - small_team
“It’s not just me,” he added. “All of my teammates are sacrificing to play for Gilas.”
Baldwin has given them all the time they need.
“We have to be human beings, before we’re basketball players and coaches,” the American-Kiwi coach said. “They need our support and they have their families’ support.”
“We know where our priorities are,” he added. “And the fact that these guys prioritize playing for their country so highly says a lot about what it means to be in Gilas, says a lot about them as individuals.”