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Gilas PH mission ready

Players are all set to compete – SBP’s Antonio.

Despite the late arrival of naturalized player Andray Blatche and some chemistry concerns, Gilas Pilipinas is ready to go to battle in the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) Championship starting tomorrow at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

According to Gilas team manager Butch Antonio, the national team is ready to rumble against its counterparts in the Southeast Asian region, and the players are all focused in winning the SEABA title.

“The players are all set, ready to compete for the title,” Antonio, also the deputy director for international affairs of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), said yesterday.

“Even without Andray, even before his arrival, our players in the national team, they’re ready for the SEABA. Now that he’s here, it’s a matter of adjusting with him in the team, particularly the new guys.”

“But we’re definitely ready. Concerns of chemistry, well, the team is actually addressing that, and Andray has been practicing well, he’s moving well with the other guys,” added Antonio.

The 6-foot-11 Blatche, a former member of the Washington Wizards and the Brooklyn Nets, arrived Sunday morning after twice cancelling his fight, the first was originally set May 2.

The current Gilas squad under coach Chot Reyes reunites Blatche with former teammates like Jayson Castro, June Mar Fajardo, Calvin Abueva, Japeth Aguilar, Troy Rosario and Terrence Romeo.

Blatche first suited up for the national team during the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain, and played under coach Tab Baldwin in two FIBA sanctioned events – the 2015 Asian championship in Changsha, China, and the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) here last year.

Blatche’s new teammates on the national team in this SEABA competition are Raymond Almazan and Allein Maiksi, as well as PBA rookies Jio Jalalon, Roger Pogoy and Matthew Wright.

While he recently helped his current professional team Xinjiang Flying Tigers capture the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) title, Blatche is trying to regain his playing form after nearly two months of inactivity. His first child – Andray Jr. – was born two weeks ago.

The national team will debut against Myanmar tomorrow, then faces Singapore on Saturday and Malaysia on Sunday.

After a break on Monday, Gilas returns to action on Tuesday also at the Big Dome against Thailand before meeting Vietnam on Wednesday and closing out with a matchup with Indonesia on Thursday.

The tournament winner will represent the Southeast Asian region to the Asia Cup scheduled this August in Lebanon and which serves as the qualifying tournament for the new FIBA home-and-away event beginning November.