Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes said the composition of his 12-man roster for next week’s opener of the 2019 FIBA World Cup qualifiers against Japan will be determined based on whether naturalized player Andray Blatche could be available for the remaining days of preparation.
Blatche vowed to show up ahead of the Japan encounter on Nov. 24 in Tokyo despite his current commitment with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association, though there’s no word yet on when the former NBA player will be in town to rejoin Gilas.
“First of all we have to make sure Andray is here. That’s going to impact the final lineup of course if Andray’s here,” Reyes told reporters after Gilas’ 96-75 victory over Rain or Shine in a fight-marred tuneup at the Hoops Center in Mandaluyong City.
“Until he’s actually here, we can’t really be sure,” added Reyes.
Reyes tweeted weeks earlier that Blatche was due to arrive last Nov. 12 just in time for Gilas’ three-day training camp in Tagaytay City. However, the 6-foot-11 center said he had difficulty securing a clearance with his Chinese club because of the ongoing CBA season.
Blatche later apologized on Instagram for the delay but promised to “see yal soon” in one of three Gilas-related posts.
“Unfortunately Andray couldn’t join us (in Tagaytay). That was scheduled to fit to Andray’s arrival, but at the last minute he had a problem with his Chinese ball club. They didn’t allow him to leave until after their game on Friday.
That’s for me the only drawback, otherwise it was good,” Reyes said.
Reyes believes the Tagaytay camp allowed Gilas to boost team chemistry in the Japan match and the Nov. 27 home duel with Taiwan at the Smart Araneta Coliseum – both games the national team is eager to win to reach the next phase of the qualifiers.
Thursday’s scrimmage was marred by an incident that saw Gilas’ Carl Bryan Cruz and Rain or Shine’s Don Trollano engaging in a fist fight before cooler heads prevailed.
The game went on without any hitch as Gilas was able to gain some confidence after an 81-76 loss to ASEAN Basketball League side Alab Pilipinas Saturday in its first tuneup match.