Naturalized player Andray Blatche believes that Gilas Pilipinas national squad could take home the gold medal in the 28th FIBA Asia Championship Olympic Qualifying tournament beginning on September 23 to October 3 in Changsha, China.
“I won’t be here if I don’t believe it,” the 6-foot-11 power forward Blatche told The Manila Times in an interview on Sunday after winning the Master Game Face MVP Cup title at the Araneta Coliseum. “We’re going to win the gold 100 percent [in FIBA Asia]and qualify to the Olympics.”
Blatche, who also played for the Washington Wizards and the Brooklyn Nets in the National Basketball Association, admitted that he is not yet in his best shape but he is trying to get better everyday with only few days left before they leave for China.
“I’m not getting any better and trying to fight this cold but I’m getting my energy back,” he added. “I’m practicing with everybody in the team and I’m confident I’ll be back in good playing shape.”
Blatche regained a bit of his competitive form in Gilas Pilipinas’ last game in the MVP Cup by scoring 18 points and grabbing 12 rebounds to lead the nationals to a 90-77 win over the Taiwanese and secure the title.
He only scored 12 points in a win against Talk ‘N Text on Friday and then posted 16 points and 10 rebounds in a come-from-behind win over New Zealand’s Wellington Saints the following day.
The MVP Cup was the first game ever of Blatche in the Philippines soil. He didn’t join the team during Jones Cup due to the death of his uncle in US.
Gilas Pilipinas is now in Cebu City for its final preparation for the FIBA Asia.
“We will have scrimmages here and work on everything,” said Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin. “We need privacy in our final phase of training. We won’t play any game here in Cebu.”
Gilas Pilipinas national team will return to Manila on September 18.