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Blatche fate up for evaluation

Andray Blatche

Andray Blatche

Officials of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas will soon discuss the performance of the national team in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT), including that of Gilas Pilipinas naturalized player Andray Blatche.

SBP vice president Al Panlilio said yesterday that the 6-foot- 11 Blatche played pretty well in this Manila leg of the OQT, but like in past events his performance will still be assessed.

“We haven’t sat down, but we’ll meet soon with other SBP officials,” said Panlilio when contacted by Tempo. “He’s shown his commitment, he played well in this tournament and he was in pretty great shape.”

“When he left the other night after we lost, he said that he’ll try it out in the NBA summer league. He’s an NBA caliber player, so we’ll assess everything. Andray will always be an option,” said Panlilio.

The contract of Blatche with Gilas is per tournament, and his last stint with the national team was his third after suiting up for Gilas in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain and the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in China.

In this OQT, Blatche averaged 25.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in the two games the national team played in. He finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and three assists in a 93-84 setback to France, and collected 30 points and seven rebounds in an 80-89 defeat to New Zealand.

The pair of losses eliminated the Philippines in Group B which denied Gilas a semifinal spot, ending its Olympic dream of earning a spot in the Rio Games next month.

Panlilio said that it’s unfair to put the blame on Blatche – as what other Gilas supporters do – following the early exit of the national team in the OQT where the initial target is to make the crossover semifinal stage.

“I don’t think he’s the reason why we lost,” said Panlilio.

“As I’ve said, this is a journey for us. Part of the reason we lost is we didn’t get enough training at a very high level. I think the Filipino fans, while it’s a treat to all of them seeing these world class basketball players, also saw how hard to compete at this level.”

A former member of the Washington Wizards and the Brooklyn Nets, Blatche plans to try it out again in the NBA, making it a challenge for Gilas to bring him back if ever he gets signed by a team.

This is due to the new and complicated format of ‘home-and-away’ by FIBA starting next year, which will have all the national teams in various zones play in the qualification tournament in the next two years to earn points for the World Cup in China in 2019.

Aside from that, the new FIBA format will have the Asia and Oceania zones, where Australia and New Zealand campaign, jointly play in the qualifying tournament.

“The format is actually a big challenge, not only for the Philippines but for other national teams. So we’ll discuss that too with the SBP and the PBA because everybody’s calendar should be aligned to the new format,” said Panlilio.

“We’ll also discuss what team to develop, not only for the next two years and the 2019 World Cup, but in the coming years. So we need to have a sustainable program in the SBP.”

Panlilio is being groomed as the next SBP chief as current president Manny V. Pangilinan is expected to step down after the OQT.