The naturalized big man admits he was out of shape during Gilas Pilipinas’ wins over Japan and Chinese Taipei in the first window of the FIBA Asian Qualifiers
Published 10:40 AM, February 14, 2018
Updated 10:41 AM, February 14, 2018
SLIMMER. Andray Blatche says he prepared twice as hard as Gilas Pilipinas faces powerhouse Australia. Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – Knowing that Gilas Pilipinas faces a daunting task in the second window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, Andray Blatche took it upon himself to get back in top shape.
Compared to his outings against Japan and Chinese Taipei, Blatche looked slimmer in his return to the country as prepared to steer the national team against heavily favored Australia.
Gilas teammates and head coach Chot Reyes have noticed that the former NBA player trimmed down. Blatche said he has devoted twice the effort in getting more fit during his stint in China.
“The last time I was here, the last two games, I was way out of shape and I couldn’t perform the way I wanted,” said Blatche.
During the first window, Blatche averaged 9.5 points, 13 rebounds and 4 assists, numbers that pale in comparison to his usual production in his previous stints with the national team.
“It bothered me and I was very frustrated and I dedicated myself to this next window.”
Aside from slowly regaining his fine form, Blatche offers Gilas the familiarity of going against the Aussies.
“I’ve known them from before. It’s not like I walked in somebody new. I’ve practiced with them before, I’ve played with them before so I know what these guys can bring to the table.”
“We have our speed and our outside shooting to our advantages. If we hit our shots, we put ourselves in the position to win that game,” said the 31-year-old naturalized Filipino.
Although Australia will not have its NBA players, such as Patty Mills, Matthew Delavedova and Andrew Bogut, in the fold against Gilas, Blatche does not see it as an advantage.
“To be honest, it doesn’t matter to me. That is basketball. You have to go out and compete regardless of who’s on the court.”
Reyes, on the other hand, is managing his expectations of Blatche.
The firebrand tactician said that Blatche, despite looking thinner, needs to be in “real game shape.” Reyes noted that the big man did not really play games during his stint in the China pro league as he was on the reserve list of the Xinjiang Flying Tigers.
“I liked his movement. You could see by the way he’s shooting the ball and his offense that he’s slowly getting in shape. But I think he has to get his game legs under him,” said Reyes.
Blatche has a week to prepare as Gilas faces the Australia Boomers at the Aussies own turf on February 22. Then Gilas returns home to lock horns with Japan on February 25.