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2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers

With Andray Blatche back, life easier for Gilas bigs, says Poy Erram

During the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers’ 4th and 5th window, Gilas Pilipinas featured a pool that was the biggest in history in terms of size.

Manning the Philippine frontline were the likes of June Mar Fajardo, Greg Slaughter, Christian Standhardinger, Ian Sangalang, Raymond Almazan, Japeth Aguilar, and Poy Erram. All of whom stand at least 6-foot-7.

During that stretch however, the Philippines only went 1-3 – two of which were home losses – to fall to 5-5 in Group F of the Asian Qualifiers.

With their backs against the wall, Gilas called 6-foot-11 Andray Blatche back to duty. And the naturalized Filipino’s return has been a revelation for the team, especially for the bigs.

“Sobrang nakaka-overwhelm lang kasi NBA player eh,” shared Erram, who is just 29 years old. “Ibang klase yung energy at vibes niya ‘pag naglalaro. He’s not really thinking about himself, he’s involving everyone. Alam naman namin lahat na pag kailangan mo ng automatic two points, Andray Blatche ka talaga eh.

“Sobrang blessed lang na may Andray kami at June Mar [Fajardo] this time around.”

Though Blatche averaged just 11.7 points and 11.8 rebounds during the first round of the WCQ, his impact goes beyond those numbers. The former NBA pro constantly demanded double teams, which would free up shooters and cutters. Moreover, he could create shots off the dribble – a rarity for bigs in the Asian game.

With this weapon in their arsenal, Erram, a known energy guy, believes that they will no longer have a hard time with their respective roles come their road games against Qatar and Kazakhstan.

“Mas madali [buhay namin] kasi kaya niya maglaro in any position.

“Quick siya for a big. Meron siyang dribble, meron siyang post moves, meron siyang shooting. Ang laking plus noon for us. Yun ang hinahanap ni coach Yeng eh – can shoot, can dribble, can play on the post,” said the 6-foot-9 big man, who averaged 2.0 points and 2.7 rebounds in three games played in the Qualifiers.

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Besides this, Erram is also learning on the fly what makes elite big men have long careers by watching Blatche.

“Sobrang quick niya. Nagulat ako kasi yung pump-fake niya, ‘di ko inexpect na ganoon siya ka-quick,” said Erram after Monday night’s Gilas practice.Sa NBA kala mo ang bagal pero in person iba. Nagulat talaga ako. Parang dinaanan niya lang ako. Sobrang beterano gumalaw, ang galing talaga.

“Hindi siya nagmamadali, he’s not forcing anything.

“Humihingi ako ng advice kay kuya Asi [Taulava]. Sabi niya I exert too much effort, napapagod ako ng sobra. Yun ang nakikita ko sa kanya, relaxed lang siya, pini-pick niya lang ang spots niya kung saan siya aatake,” added Erram.

And just like Scottie Thompson, Erram is relishing this moment of playing side by side with Blatche.

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