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Blatche ready to play for PH

Only a few details remain to be ironed out before Gilas Pilipinas formally announces the inclusion of Andray Blatche to the squad that will play in next month’s Southeast Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) championships, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) said.

SBP president Al Panlilio said that Blatche has assured basketball officials of his desire to play for Gilas. Some sources say that what is keeping the formal announcement from being issued is Blatche’s compensation.

The American’s services are not cheap. He was reportedly paid $1million when he played for Gilas during the Olympic Qualifying Tournament held here last year.

“They’re finalizing it, but yes he’s coming,” said Panlilio.

The SEABA will be held from May 12 to 18 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

With Thailand and Indonesia reportedly bringing in their own naturalized players, the SBP is not leaving any stone unturned to win the SEABA crown.

Gilas head coach Chot Reyes said in a briefing last Tuesday that Gilas must win the SEABA title at all cost.

The 6-foot-11 Blatche has been named to a 24-man pool that Reyes will cut to the final 12 by late-April or early-May.

SBP Executive Director Sonny Barrios said the rationale behind Blatche’s inclusion is for him to start getting used to playing with Gilas once again as it gets ready for the FIBA Asia Cup.

“May mga pumupuna na bakit kailangan pa si Andray,” said Barrios.

“Ang sagot naman natin dyan, eh why not? Mas maganda na buo ang team, and this early eh nasa level na ng preparation going to other FIBA tournaments like the FIBA Asia Cup in Lebanon,” he added.

Only the champion squad in the SEABA will make the trip to Lebanon where 15 other teams will be gathered.

The FIBA Asia Cup will also serve as a qualifying event for 2019 FIBA World Cup that will be played in China using the home-and-away format starting in November.

Blatche, who last played for Gilas during the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) here last year, is fresh from his stint in China where he helped the Xinjiang Flying Tigers win the CBA title.

Gilas team manager and SBP deputy director for international affairs Butch Antonio said that Blatche is expected to arrive late this month if all matters are finalized, including his salary.