CALL Andray Blatche's call-up overkill, but Chot Reyes is not leaving anything to chance in Gilas Pilipinas' campaign in the Southeast Asia Basketball Association (SEABA) Championship.
Reyes justified the move to include naturalized player Blatche in the national team roster for the May 12-18 meet, saying the Filipinos can no longer take for granted its Southeast Asian neighbors as far as the sport is concerned.
Not a few fans reacted negatively to the news that 6-foot-10 Blatche will be coming over to suit up for Gilas in the qualifier of the Fiba Asia Cup this August in Beirut, Lebanon.
"We can't take them lightly anymore," said Reyes. "As I said, lahat tinitignan natin as serious competition. There's no room for error in this tournament."
Reyes cited the case of the Philippines' return to the Fiba World Cup in Spain, where Gilas nearly stunned cage powers such as Croatia, Argentina, Greece, and Puerto Rico despite not competing in the world stage for 36 years.
"Ang logical comparison diyan is yung Greece or Argentina na hindi kinakabahan sa atin. Ngayon naninigurado na ba sila sa atin? Hindi di ba?
"So that's the same situation."
Reyes also explained Southeast Asian teams such as Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia are now employing the use of naturalized players.
"We're competitive against them (world powers) because we have Andray Blatche kaya hindi na sila nakakasiguro sa atin," Reyes said. "So ganun din ang tingin nila sa kabila (Southeast Asia) against us."
And lest it be forgotten, Reyes recalled how Marcus Douthit - the naturalized player replaced by Blatche - played for Gilas during the 2015 Southeast Asian Games in Singapore, and yet the team was given a big scare by Indonesia in the gold medal match.
"We can't discount them," said Reyes of the opposition, noting the Thais and Indons have already been practicing as teams for almost six months now.
"They already have a team, they're already practicing. Tayo we're still in the process of selecting (the players)."
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) executive director Sonny Barrios is one hundred percent behind his coach, saying Reyes will take an even bigger blame if Gilas will lose the championship.
"Mas mahirap kung matalo tayo, tapos ang sisisihin din ng tao si coach Chot, E di mas maganda yung manigurado ka na," he stressed.
"Besides, we can't afford to lose in front of our basketball-loving countrymen.
SBP president Al Panlilio added there's no excuse for Gilas to lose.
"SEABA is very critical because it's the first tournament," he said. "We have to win it. No ifs, no buts."