COACH Chot Reyes admitted no one is assured of his slot in Gilas Pilipinas, not even NBA veteran and current Philippine visitor Andray Blatche.
Reyes reminded everybody that Gilas’ original naturalized player Marcus Douthit is still very much a part of the team and will be more than willing to prove himself for possible inclusion in the team bound for the Fiba-World Cup and the Asian Games.
And Blatche is very much aware of this, according to the national mentor.
“Hindi (siya sure sa slot dun). Alam niya na walang may guaranteed slot sa team natin,” he said. “So paglalabanan pa rin nilang dalawa (Blatche and Douthit) 'yung slot na yun.”
But Reyes said he has no doubt about the kind of performance Blatche will give to the national team once his naturalization papers are formally signed by President Aquino.
The Gilas coach said he personally saw the 6-foot-11 Blatche's glow over the way he was welcomed by Filipinos with open arms upon his arrival on Sunday.
“OK siya (natuwa siya). He is a very amiable person, very soft-spoken, walang ka-ere-ere. And he is very happy to visit the country and all of those things,” Reyes said.
“Nakita niya kung gaano ka-big deal (para sa ating mga Pilipino) ang pagpunta niya rito,” he added. “So I don’t see foresee any problems kay Andray.”
Reyes admitted being aware of the concern of some fans that the American player will not give his all for the country.
The outspoken mentor was quick to remind the public of the same apprehension it had before Douthit was signed by Gilas.
“Maski sinong player naman natin, kahit si Lebron James, there’s always going to be that doubt, di ba? Even when we got Marcus Douthit, we also had that doubt,” said Reyes.
“We will never know how hard the player is going to play for us, until we got to the actual point that he is playing,” he added.
With Blatche’s papers still waiting approval from President Aquino, it will be Douthit who is tasked to man the slot for Gilas in the coming Fiba-Asia Cup set July 11-19 in Wuhan, China.
“Hindi kasama si Andray dun. Kasi wala pa `yung naturalization niya. Hindi pa siya naturalized eh,” he said.
Still, Reyes is optimistic President Aquino will finally approve Blatche’s naturalization just before the July 1 deadline to pave the way for the Brooklyn Nets center to join Gilas in the Fiba-World Cup in Spain and Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
“Hopefully mapirmahan na ni President yung papeles niya. Pero pag nangyari yun (the naturalization of Blatche) is just the first step. Now the real hardwork begins,” he said.
“We have to work hard to play and try to beat the world powers. Blatche is not the messiah, he is not the savior of Gilas. It’s still going to depend on the entire team,” Reyes declared.
“But definitely, Andray is a good addition to us.”
At the most, Reyes said Blatche first foray in training with the Gilas team will be in Miami on July 25.
“Wala na siyang time pumunta rito eh. So sa Miami na lang talaga namin siya makakasama. Sa world championship na lang talaga siya makakalaro for us,” he added.
Reyes also revealed the Gilas team will only have a short training for the Fiba-Asia Cup as it returns back to practice on July 1 when eight teams in the ongoing PBA Governors Cup will already be out of contention.
“July 1 tayo mag-i-start, kasi dun pa lang magsisimula `yung finals. But then again, hindi pa rin tayo kumpleto nun. Mag-re-rely na lang tayo ulit sa mga practice players nun,” said the Gilas coach, who is already ruling out inviting new players to the current 15-man pool.
“Yung Gilas cadets na lang ang makakasama natin sa practice. Wala na tayong idadagdag. Wala ng time,” he said.
After the Fiba-Asia Cup, the national team will fly to Miami for a series of training camps before it heads to Spain by the end of July for a series of tune-up games against other Fiba-World Cup qualifiers.
“May mga tune-up tayo dun sa Spain, marami. Mga national teams lahat makakalaban natin. We will release the schedule pag na-finalize na. Hopefully within next week or so,” Reyes said.