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Andray Blatche said that it’s time for Gilas Pilipinas to move forward and concentrate on the task at hand, getting ready and making sure the national team is at its sharpest for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament on July 5 to 10 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The 6-foot-11 naturalized player will spearhead the Philippines’ campaign in the OQT where the champion earns a spot in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this August.
“I’m not here to talk about last year,” said Blatche after working out yesterday at the Meralco gym in Pasig City.
“I’m here to talk about this year and what’s our focus on moving forward, what we need to do to win. We have a new system (of plays) that me, personally, am trying to get accustomed to. I actually like it. It gives me a chance to get my teammates open shots.”
Blatche, who arrived Friday night from the US, said that playing in the OQT is different from playing in the Asian championship since the level of competition is significantly higher.
“Times are different,” he said. “This year, we’re facing teams which are better than the ones in FIBA Asia. Everything has to be as one. The competition level is much higher and the stakes means a lot more.”
Blatche added: “Most of the guys (from the opposing squads in the OQT), I have played in the NBA. I know most of their abilities and the things that I can do. It’s up for us as a team to prepare for them.”
The native New Yorker said he is elated to be reunited with his Gilas Pilipinas teammates, including some whom he played with when he first suited up in the FIBA World Cup in Spain in 2014.
“It’s good to have some of the guys back that I played with like Japeth, June Mar, and LA. It’s good to see some of the guys again that competed in the World Cup,” Blatche said.
“I’m still trying to adjust to the temperature and the time. I’m actually sleepy right now,” he said laughing.
The 29-year-old Blatche, who played for the Washington Wizards and the Brooklyn Nets, was supposed to arrive May 15 but was permitted to stay several more days in the US to be with his cancer-stricken mother.
“I spent most of the time with my family, (but) I put a lot of work, a lot of shots so I don’t lose rhythm and lot of stuff on the court. I just tried to stay on my rhythm from the CBA season, keep my hands on the ball,” said Blatche.
“I think when we play against Iran, that should let us know where we’re at, what we need to get better,” he added.