Andray Blatche‘s experience in playing in the international games is one of the reasons why Gilas Pilipinas recalled him to improve their chances to make it to the 2019 FIBA World Cup set in China.
Likewise, his ability to attract double-teams inside the post is one of his features coach Yeng Guiao is looking for.
“Napansin namin ‘yun nung huling laro natin. Although si June Mar was able to contribute, we need somebody who can demand a double team so that we can get our shooters going. It was decided to get him back,” said Guiao.
Coach Yeng tried the June Mar Fajardo–Greg Slaughter experiment during the Kazakhstan game but instead of Gilas will have an edge the visiting Steppe Wolves got an advantage.
The national team’s big-men especially Slaughter was beaten easily by Alexandr Zhigulin who is a traditional stretch player and can run the floor.
Likewise, both the team Kazakhstan and team Iran were not throwing double-team inside the post and the result, shooters like Matthew Wright, Marcio Lassiter, etc., weren’t able to make big scoring contribution. Those guards needed to create plays for themselves in order to break free from their defenders.
“We discussed that with the SBP [Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas] leadership. We made some evaluations after our last window and we felt that we really need a big man who can have some dominating presence,” Guiao said on Saturday.
“Nandoon naman si June Mar (Fajardo) but we need somebody of his experience, with NBA experience and a lot of international games. ‘Yun ‘yung kulang natin,” he added.
Still, the multi-awarded head coach of Gilas needed to scrutinize Blatche once he joins the team for their preparation to the final window of 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
Though he is one of the needed ingredients for the make-or-brake campaign of Gilas, his name won’t be in the final roster if coach Yeng sees him as not physically fit.
“Hindi pa rin (shoo-in) kasi one thing we are looking at is what kind of shape he is in. Baka mamaya gusto nga natin siyang kunin, tapos 350 pounds pala siya dito. We just want to be able to assess him physically, what kind of shape he is in, what kind of motivation he is in, then we can make that decision,” said Guiao.
“May nabalitaan ako through the manager that he is in shape. [But] you can only be sure when you see him,” said Guiao.