Andray Blatche arrived a bit over his ideal weight last week, but Mighty Sports owner Alex Wongchuking and coach Charles Tiu remain confident the naturalized Filipino can shed the unwanted pounds before the club leaves on January 21 for the 2020 Dubai International Basketball Championship.
“We know how good a player he is, but he needs to be in excellent form because we will be again facing formidable teams from Lebanon and Middle East,” said Tiu, who masterminded the team’s title sweep of Taiwan’s Jones Cup last year.
Determined to improve on its third place-finish last year, Mighty Sports has been training daily since the 6-foot-9 Blatche arrived on Thursday. The team also intends to add the Dubai title to its trophy cabinet.
“With a good mix of young and veteran players in the team, we are hoping we can at least finish in the top four,” said Wongchuking, who is thankful for the support of Creative Pacific of Bong Cuevas, Go for Gold, Oriental Game, and Gatorade.
Except for the 7-foot-2 Kai Sotto, all members of the 16-man team were all present and accounted for during the team’s first three days of training. And each one relishes the opportunity to play for Mighty Sports in a tough international tournament.
Sotto cannot join Mighty’s preparation due to a previous commitment, though. The former Ateneo standout will fly straight to the ultra-modern capital city of United Arab Emirates, also on Jan 21.
Despite Sotto’s absence in training, Wongchuking and Tiu expressed no apprehension regarding team chemistry. Both of them believe the 17-year-old star can easily adjust to Tiu’s system.
Sotto is in the US right now, trying to toughen up himself at The Skill Factory as several top NCAA teams have already expressed interest in tapping his services.
Sotto will have only two days to study and instill all the plays, since the nine-day event starts on January 23.
The presence of Renaldo Balkman and McKenzie Moore — imports with championship experience — and several collegiate standouts like Ateneo’s Thirdy Ravena and UP’s Juan Gomez De Liaño is one reason why Mighty Sports has good chances of finishing in the top four.
Other members of the team are Joseph Yeo, Rain or Shine’s Beau Belga, Joaqui Manuel, Gab Banal, Jarell Lim, Dave Ildefonso, Javi Gomez De Liaño, Jamie Malonzo, Mikey Williams, and Jelan Kendrick.