IT’S been less than a year since Andray Blatche last suited up for Gilas Pilipinas. Yet it surprised him to see a slew of fresh, new faces when he first joined the national team in practice ahead of the Southeast Asia Basketball Association (Seaba) Championship.
A number of them were immediately noticed by the former NBA player, and right off the bat he mentioned two gunners and ‘that new, tall kid,’ as those who caught his eye.
“I see some great shooters. No. 4 tell him he’s a great shooter, and another young guy, I think no. 12 it was or no. 9, one of them,” said Blatche when asked about the new teammates he had in his fourth and latest stint with Gilas Pilipinas.
The naturalized player is obviously referring to cadets Matthew Wright and Roger Pogoy, while the tall kid is no less than lanky center Raymund Almazan.
“He gives us a lot of energy and outside shooting,” he said of the fourth year Rain or Shine stalwart.
Among the old timers, Blatche sees big men Japeth Aguilar and June Mar Fajardo as those who could play crucial roles in the country’s bid to top the Fiba Asia qualifier set May 12 to 18.
“I see Japeth and June Mar had accomplished a lot better and they’ll help a lot better,” he said of his frontcourt partners.
In his first three previous stints with Gilas, Blatche had to battle the best players around the world and Asia. This time, he’ll be going up against the best in the Southeast Asian region.
Although he doesn’t know what to expect from the competition, the first-time father of a bouncing baby boy (his junior, actually), believes as long as Gilas plays as one cohesive unit, the Filipinos are capable of topping anew a tournament they have long been dominating.
“This is my first time of playing in Southeast Asian and I’m not familiar with it,” he said. “But as long as we each do our job, we’ll be successful.”