Gilas Pilipinas big man Andray Blatche has returned in town for a second tour of duty with the Philippine national basketball team, joining the squad’s first formal practice Monday night at the Meralco Gym.
The NBA veteran and current Xinjiang Flying Tigers player was excited to see his teammates again, and is focused on the task at hand even if he missed playing top level basketball for a while.
“I spent time with my mom. My mom was sick. That was my main concern. I played a lot of pick up ball [during the offseason],” Blatche said.
Blatche says his main aim is to get back into top shape as he prepares to help Gilas Pilipinas reach the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
“Just give me the whole month of August and I will be ready.”
Blatche also denied any rumor stating that he was not allowed by his club team to play for the Philippines.
“I am here so I am playing. I haven’t heard me I can’t play. I don’t know where it is coming from.”
Blatche averaged 21.2 PPG (third overall) and 13.8 RPG (first overall) in his maiden stint with the national team after he replaced Marcus Douthit during the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain.
While admitting he misses some of the key players like Paul Lee, Marc Pingris, and LA Tenorio, Blatche remains confident with the current pool in the little amount of time he has seen the composition.
“Do I want them back? Yes. I played with them before,” Blatche talked about the other Gilas mainstays. “But whatever the situation is, we are like a family here, and other guys will step up.”
“It is going to be a process. We have to continue practicing and competing. The focus is about us and what we can do.”
With the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship firing off in September in Changsha, China, the Gilas big is asking for the Filipino hoop fans to show their support as he feels positive with the team.
“Keep fighting for us. We have a really good group of guys. I see most of the same guys back. We all know what it takes.”