A dream tandem for Filipino basketball fans finally takes to the court in Dubai in a couple of days.
For the first time, Andray Blatche, who played for Gilas Pilipinas, will form a formidable one-two combo with ex-Alab Pilipinas import Renaldo Balkman during Mighty Sports’ campaign in the 2020 Dubai International Basketball Championship.
It is a partnership 15 years in the making.
“He’s like my brother.
“You don’t call some other people your brother, and I’ve known him for a long time. He’s a great player and a great person that’s in my heart,” shared Balkman, who is 35 years old.
The two played in the NBA from 2006 to 2012. Balkman would head to the Philippines in 2013, while Blatche would continue on in the Association until 2014.
Blatche would be naturalized by the Philippines in 2015. Balkman, on the other hand, would be banned from playing in the PBA until 2018.
Balkman would play for Alab from 2018-19.
To start 2020, the two find themselves in a crossroads; the 6-foot-8 Balkman will not return to Alab, while the 6-foot-11 Blatche was not tapped by Gilas for the 2020 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers.
This time, they represent another Philippine team in Mighty Sports. Safe to say, Balkman is confident that they will dominate.
“To be with him on my side, it just gives other teams… It’s gonna be hard for other teams to stop us. You know what I mean? Y’all know we can score, I can score, and we get two different intangibles on the court,” said the 2019 Jones Cup MVP.
“And that duo right there with us on the inside and other imports in the outside and the wings, it’s gonna be hard to stop.”
However, Balkman stressed that he, Blatche, and the rest of the young squad cannot fall to complacency. After all, they’re facing the best of the best from the Middle East.
“But again, if there’s one thing we had to do that play together and play smart, and I think if we do that, we’ll be the best team out there. That’s one thing we gotta do, play smart, play hard,” said Balkman, as Mighty Sports looks to be the first non-Middle Eastern team to win the invitational.
“We definitely got a chance to win the championship.”
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