Gilas Pilipinas mentor Chot Reyes is growing impatient with the absence of naturalized player Andray Blatche following the delay of his arrival from the United States to prepare for the SEABA Championship which starts on May 12 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The former NBA player was scheduled to arrive last Monday and subsequently join the Gilas practice session last Tuesday, but had to reschedule his flight for Friday reportedly to attend the christening of his first newborn son.
Reyes, however, was not pleased with the turn of events particularly with the competition just a week apart between the arrival of Blatche and the opener.
“I am very upset with the unfolding of events. Andray knows it and his handlers know it,” said Reyes after holding the first practice session of Gilas since naming his 12-man roster for the SEABA event Tuesday night at the Meralco gym in Ortigas.
Reyes even went as far as threatening to replace the one-time Brooklyn Net and Washington Wizard, saying: “Like I said, ‘pag nagka-aberya pa ito, we’re going to replace him.”
Last week, Blatche expressed his excitement on playing again for Gilas when he shared his thoughts on Twitter.
“Mga Kababayan! I am so excited to be back and win for my fellow Pinoys. Please come and see us all play at SEABA.
Laban! Puso!,” said Blatche through his account @drayblatche.
Although some basketball observers see that including Blatche is an overkill, considering the Philippines is a favorite to win the SEABA even without him, Reyes still named his prized 6-foot-11 recruit to his ‘SEABA 12’.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Al Panlilio supports the move of Reyes.
“It’s better to have Andray Blatche on the Gilas Pilipinas roster considering that other nations reportedly are bringing their naturalized players. We’ll do the same,” said Panlilio yesterday.
Together with Blatche on the national team are June Mar Fajardo, Jayson Castro, Calvin Abueva, Japeth Aguilar, Raymond Almazan, Troy Rosario, Terrence Romeo, Allein Maliksi, Jio Jalalon, Roger Pogoy and Matthew Wright.
The tournament winner will earn a spot in the FIBA Asia Cup this August in Lebanon, which serves as the qualifier as the top 16 teams will advance in the new home-and-away FIBA format starting November.